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Morrison Oyster Festival tray of oysters in rock salt
Photograph: Supplied

Sydney’s most iconic dish has been announced, and the clue is in the name

We are girt by sea, after all

Written by
Emily Lloyd-Tait

There’s a strong argument to be made for salt and pepper squid being Australia’s national dish, what with its compelling combination of fresh seafood, Asian culinary influences and being widely available, be it at your local fish and chipper or a higher-end dining room. But no, we asked 38,000 people globally what they thought their city’s most defining dish was and the answer for Sydney was Sydney rock oysters (see, the clue was in the name). The dish is not just synonymous with Sydney, but eponymous too.

Those famously creamy bivalves grown along the east coast are the opening act on pretty much any menu in the city, regardless of cuisine or status. In fact, they’re so endemic to Sydney dining that some places go so far as to have devoted oyster happy hours where you can double your shellfish for half the normal ticket price.

In Melbourne, their answer was Italian-American import the parma, a pub staple made from crisp chicken schnitty coated in a layer of Napoli sauce, slices of smoky ham, and topped with a horde of melted cheese. If you’re in Austin, Texas the resounding answer to ‘what should I eat first’ was breakfast tacos; in Copenhagen it was smørrebrød; and in Kuala Lumpur is was nasi lemak. Given the state of our travel industry there’s not a lot of international sojourns in our immediate future, but happily for Sydneysiders, many of these dishes are available here. Why not engage in some dining chair travel and see how many of the 46 dishes you can knock off the list over summer. 

Or if you just want the best of the city’s eats, here’s the top 53 restaurants in Sydney so that you never have a bad meal out.

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