For Australians, one the best schoolyard currencies is not Twinkies or animal crackers -- but something called “chicken salt.” This addictive concoction of spices and herbs ups the flavor of pretty much anything you sprinkle it on, from fish and chips to Australian lamb... and Australians can’t get enough of it.
So what exactly is chicken salt? Australian food and travel journalist Sofia Levin explains, “Chicken salt is as Australian as umami gets, save for Vegemite.” The ingredients, and as a result the flavor, depend on which brand you and your local fish and chip shop choose. Salt is always the main ingredient of this yellow powder with chicken flavoring, paprika, onion, garlic, celery powder, and sometimes a healthy dose of MSG. Despite its misleading name, chicken salt is 100 percent vegan because there is no real chicken used to make it.
Originally made to season roasted chicken -- hence the name -- it’s heralded as the perfect additive to fish and chips, potato cakes, dim sums, Tater Tots, scallops, fried or grilled fish, and also any meat you can think of. It’s also beloved by chain restaurants in Australia like KFC, though fine dining chefs tend to turn their noses up to the condiment. Numerous brands like Windsor Farm Chicken Salt, JADA, Edlyn, Vegeta Australia, and Krio sell their version in supermarkets across Australian, though it's still tragically absent from US shelves.
As for the origins of this classic condiment, well, they’re a bit dubious. A South Australian company named Mitani is credited with manufacturing and selling chicken salt on a commercial scale in the late 1970s. The company was also thought to be the creator, but that has recently been disputed in a Guardian article.
A South Australian man named Peter Brinkworth, along with his family, insists he created the original recipe and sold it to the Mitani Group who then distributed it throughout Australia. Today, Mitani is the most popular brand on the market and produces over 200,000 pounds of Mitani Classic Chicken Salt per year, enough for over 50 million servings of French fries.