When ordering fast-food in Australia, you’ll likely notice your fries emitting a bit of a golden-yellow glow. This is no hunger-induced hallucination. The brightly-colored, salty coating is the seasoning of choice for many Australians when it comes to dressing up hot chips. Referred to as chicken salt, this savory spice blend is known for its intense umami flavoring and yellow hue.
Before it became the beloved french fry seasoning it is today, chicken salt was a staple in shops specializing in roast chicken in South Australia. Prior to the 1970s, the dish was often subtly seasoned with salt and pepper. But one man working at a family-run chicken shop in the Eyre Peninsula sought to change that. Peter Brinkworth’s original chicken salt recipe included a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, paprika, chicken bouillon, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and curry powder, which imparts its iconic yellow color. Offering a way to spice up the relatively bland bird, Brinkworth’s chicken salt quickly took wing. Soon, he was selling the seasoning by the bagful to the hungry public.
Brinkworth eventually sold his chicken shop and, along with it, his secret chicken salt recipe. Since then, the spice mix has made its way across Australia, finding a home atop french fries, in meat rubs, and even onto the rims of martini glasses. Now those seeking the salty seasoning can choose from among a wide array of competing chicken salt brands and varieties. Most importantly, however, the condiment is considered a french fry essential—and many Australians would agree that it should be offered at any fast food restaurant worth its salt.