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Sydney dishes things up Aussie style for Olympic crowds
SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Fast-food extraordinaire Ivan Ginovic has it all worked out. Lined up on the counter of his "fish and chips" stand in the center of Sydney are 9 different bottles of toppings that cater to every palette known to man.
"We started off with four," he says, "but we've added to the selection since the Games began."
He says he has sweet chili sauce for Thais, Singaporeans and other Asians. Mayo was ordered especially for the Dutch to smear over their chips. Mustard and ketchup are for the Americans to smother their hot dogs. Tomato sauce, which is said to be "30 seconds runnier than ketchup" when being poured, is there for the Aussies. And of course, hot chili sauce is for North African visitors -- "they like it really hot".
As Sydney hosts the 2000 Olympic Games and effectively feeds every international visitor in town, Ginovic, who has worked in the fast-food industry for 23 years, is serious about making his customers feel at home.
The famous Aussie steak sandwich
While Europeans prefer crumbed fish to thickly battered, and while the British opt for salt and vinegar on their chips rather than runny tomato sauce, Ginovic says most visitors are prepared to wrap their gobs around something truly Aussie for the sake of making their Sydney visit more authentic.
"All the tourists have one common thing -- they all want to try a steak sandwich," he says.
Known for its quality beef, Australia comes up trumps when it comes to steak sandwiches. They consist of a seared topside steak with cooked onion and tomato sauce served between two slices of white bread. The trick, says Ginovic, is not to add anything cold like lettuce or tomato slices.
He contrasts this to the Aussie hamburger "with the lot," which typically complements a beef patty with beet root slices, bacon, egg and a slab of pineapple.
Hamburgers, along with steaks, salads, fried food and chicken, are what international visitors are getting a taste for at Sydney's pubs. Pub food -- or "pub grub" -- should be consumed with beer at all times and is best eaten while watching live Olympics coverage on televisions mounted in the pubs across town.
The Etamogah Pub, an atmospheric bar on Darling Harbour, has drawn plenty of international tourists.
Perhaps the main attraction here is that patrons can sizzle their own steaks. Nestled in a corner beside a trough full of fresh salad sits a true blue barbecue. Sprawled above it, a sign reads "Expert cooks only mate!"
"All the tourists we find really enjoy that 'cause it is the Australian barbecue," says manager Leonard Davis, 28.
Another crowd pleaser, he says, is a new Australian brew of beer called "Struth" (Aussie slang for 'God's truth!') which has been added to the pub's beer selection especially for the world visitors.
"It's a novelty for them," he says. "The fact that they think it's Australian is enough."
It's no secret that travelers like to sample what's "novel".
Italian Mattia Toombett, 26, had been in Sydney less than 2 days before becoming an expert in the 'novelty' Australian cuisine he tasted there.
"Crocodile is good," he said, "like chicken. Kangaroo is more hard."
But Australian food is not just about Vegemite, meat pies and shrimp on the barbie -- actually, Aussies call them prawns. In fact, many visitors are finding that Australian cuisine is a sophisticated blend of Mediterranean and Asian dishes, a reflection of the many cultures that have settled in Australia over the years.
Sydney restaurateur Neil Perry helped pioneer the latest culinary style, frequently dubbed "modern Australian."
"My sense of what Australian food is, is that multicultural heritage I've grown up in," he says. "It's really about being influenced by freshness of produce and the cooking methods of different cultures."
Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Greek, Italian and Lebanese are just some of the styles that enjoy a significant following in Sydney.
Modern Australian, which combines these styles with Australia's excellent seafood and vegetable farming, is what many fine dining restaurants and classy cafes across Sydney are offering their customers during the Olympics.
"There's such a variety to choose from," said one U.S. tourist soaking up a view of the Opera House while enjoying a meal at one of Sydney's harbor-side restaurants. "The food is always fresh and the seafood is just wonderful."
Perry's Rockpool Group, a collection of popular fine-dining restaurants in Sydney, hasn't added any new dishes to its menu to cater to the Olympic crowds. The staff says their modern Australian selection is tapping into all visitors.
Dishes range from seared Yamba king prawns with goats cheese tortellini and burnt butter, to hapuka cooked in a pot with garam masala and coconut milk served with semolina noodles and snow peas.
Add to dishes like these a locally produced wine and Sydney "foodie" experts assure visitors they're eating true Australian food.
Fair dinkum, mate.
Adventurers enjoy dramatic view from Sydney Harbour Bridge
Official Site of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
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