New cuisines included Korean KimchiAs we entered the second decade of the 21st century, the latest “in” cuisines were Korean, Mexican, South American (BBQ) and Scandinavian. Or, if you believe Matt Preston, the new cuisines were Spanish, Latin American and Japanese.

Of course, examples of these cuisines had been around for decades. The first wave of Mexican restaurants appeared with Taco Bill‘s in the late 1960s. The 1970s saw our first Japanese, with Melbourne’s Teppanyaki Inn (open 1975) claiming to be the earliest teppanyaki-style eatery in the whole of Australia. As late as 1980, though, the first Age Good Food Guide felt it had to explain to punters what sushi was and warn people about the likelihood of encountering (gasp) raw fish.

In 1971, the census showed fewer than 500 Korean people living in Australia. At that time, then, Korean was certainly not one of the new cuisines making waves. The first Korean restaurant, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, was Korean House, opened in 1975 in William Street by accountant Myongho Pak. However, in Melbourne, a Korean hot-pot style restaurant (long vanished) was operating in the early 1970s, perhaps before Mr Pak’s establishment. Today, Strathfield in Sydney has the highest concentration of Korean-run food outlets in the country.

Spanish cuisine goes back a little further.  The first Spanish immigrants to Australia were, in fact, sheep. Spanish Merinos, imported by John Macarthur in 1797, provided the foundation of our wool industry. The gold rush attracted immigrants of the human variety and the first Spanish restaurant was opened in Melbourne in 1860, despite there being fewer than 150 Spaniards in Victoria. By 1947, this figure had grown to only 252. Even in 2011, there were only 13 057 Spanish-born people in Australia.  For many years Johnston Street, Fitzroy, was the hub of the Spanish community with a number of Spanish restaurants.  However, as the tapas craze arrived, Spanish-style cuisine began to take off across Australia.

The Latin and South American trend was something new. With its emphasis on meat, often barbecued over open flame, it represented a push back against the healthy eating regimes.