Already bored with your New Year’s diet and about to dive headfirst into a thick, juicy cut of filet mignon? Yearning for some red meat and looking for a leaner option? Kangaroo is heralded in the land down under as a super healthy red meat alternative to beef. It has less than two percent fat and is high in protein. It’s wild-caught—so it’s all natural, not pumped full of hormones, antibiotics or a bunch of added chemicals. It also packs a punch full of iron, Omega-3s, zinc, and B vitamins.
Kangaroo has long since been eaten in Australia and Tasmania. It was regarded for many years as lowbrow and commonly used for dog food. It used to be dirt cheap to purchase (or free to go out and shoot) and was a staple source of protein in low-income houses. My friend Sheryl, whom I was visiting in Melbourne, grew up in Tasmania on a farm and was raised eating roo. “If you lived in the country, kangaroo was part of your diet,” she said.
Aside from Sheryl, I had quite a few other Aussie mates gush about how tasty a good roo steak could be. Over the past ten years or so, eating kangaroo has gained popularity, due to it being a healthy red meat alternative and the fact that it is damn delicious. With the rise in consumption, it is now viewed as a quasi gourmet item.
Sheryl took me to Edinburgh Castle to pop my kangaroo cherry. The restaurant boasts being “Brunswick’s longest standing pub.” It’s been around since 1852 and in a neighborhood that has seen recent hipster-fication, an old pub keeping up with changing tastes and desires is quite the accomplishment. Their menu embellishes on pub fare and is constructed of high quality fresh ingredients.
My friend and I decided to take a table in the nothing-fancy, quiet dining area behind the bar area and picked out a bottle of red to accompany our meal. Sheryl knows wine well, having had a hand in a winery in Adelaide, South Australia in the past. We settled on a bottle of Quarisa Treasures Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, South Australia. There are vineyards in the surrounding areas of Melbourne in the province of Victoria, and farther up north past Sydney, but South Australia is the region that continues to churn out the most wine on the continent.
The award-wining cabernet was a perfect way to start off the meal. It was velvety and earthy, with notes of black cherry at the start and a hint of leather in the smooth finish. I knew it would compliment the flavors found in the red meat department.
I ordered the peppered roo salad, as it was the only kangaroo steak on the menu; they also offer a roo burger, but I wanted to try the meat in an un-ground form. After a weekend of heavy partying (those Aussies do love to get hammered, they sure make for good drinking companions), I was a bit nervous partaking in some strange new meat eating experience. However, I decided to give it a gander, and I am happy as hell to have hopped up to the plate. I wasn’t given a steak knife, and was cheerfully surprised at the ease in which I cut the meat with a dinner knife. I had to clear my mind of the image of some massive rodent-deer creature jumping around in the outback as I brought the fork up to my mouth. Upon first chew I was elated to be partaking in this marsupial dining venture.
The steak was seared to a beautiful rare/medium rare and sliced with the grain of the meat to really bring out the tenderness. The attentive cooking and cutting techniques created a sumptuous savory bite that damn near melted in my mouth like butter. The kangaroo itself was much less gamy than I had anticipated, I thought it would resemble venison, or even rabbit. It was a soft, luxurious flavor that harmonized extraordinarily well with the pepper marinade—like Nick Cave (a personal Aussie fave of mine) and Kylie Minogue singing in their opulently crafted duet “Where the Wild Roses Grow.”
I had fun pairing each bite of roo with a different ingredient from the salad in an exciting juxtaposition of rich, sultry meat and burst of fresh fruit and veg. The contrasting components brought out different characteristics of the kangaroo. The fresh arugula, fennel, beets, radishes, orange slices and cherry tomatoes were truly a phenomenal line up to accompany the meat in a healthy and delectable way.
Another bonus to eating kangaroo is that it’s sustainable and is better for the environment as the animals emit less greenhouse gas emissions as other grazing livestock, such as cattle or sheep. The evening manager at Edinburgh Castle told me that they source their roo meat from Orroroo, South Australia.
Sheryl, who is a fantastic home chef and has cooked with roo for years, said, “The good thing about kangaroo is you can almost do anything with it, the whole animal can be used, you can even make kangaroo tail soup. The problem is you have to be very careful with it, because if it is over done like any game meat it just gets really stringy and tough.”
My preparation of peppered roo steak salad was truly divine. This introduction to eating kangaroo was more spectacular than I’d ever imagined.
If you can afford it, you can get roo shipped to your door in the US by ordering from some ridiculously expensive exotic meat delivery websites. However I recommend, if you can, just get yourself down under to try this lean and lush critter from the Australian bush.
Annie Merkley is a freelance journalist, banjo strummin’ songstress, traveler by simple means, poet, and dreamer of dreams and things. She has worked in restaurants from Athens, Georgia to Ischia, Italy, from New York City to Cornwall, England. From serving to being a cook, baker, bartender, barista and manager she’s seen the insides of restaurants at every angle.