America has the hotdog, France has the baguette, India has the dosa, and Australia has the Chiko Roll.
The Chiko Roll was invented by a boilermaker, and that makes a whole lot of sense.
Frank McEnroe believed that Aussie Rules footy patrons required a hardy warming food that was robust enough to hold in one hand, with a beer in the other. The Chiko Roll was thus invented, and premiered at the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Show in 1951.
The concept of the Chiko Roll was simple – Mr. McEnroe took the Chinese Chop Suey roll, which was popular in Australia at the time, and put his boilermaker skills into adapting it to Aussie football ground conditions.
He used egg and flour dough to make a thick outside tube, which was then deep fried. Inside was a combination of meat, cabbage, celery, barley, rice, carrot, onion, green beans and spices. It gave the semblance of being nutritious.
More importantly, it was delicious. Especially at the footy on a cold winter’s afternoon.
The Chiko Roll took off immediately.
By the end of the 1950s Chiko Rolls were sold in most fish-and-chip shops, takeaway joints, milk bars, and at sporting events all around the country. In 1963 the Frank McEnroe’s company went public, and in the 70s at their height of their popularity, there were 40 million Chiko Rolls sold each year in Australia.
Strangely, there was an export market to Japan. They probably used them for karate practice – instead of breaking bricks in half, they broke Chiko Rolls.
Part of the Chiko Roll phenomenon came down to marketing – and the sexy Chiko Chick.
The Chiko Chicks were flagrantly displayed on billboards and in magazines, wearing scanty bikinis and low cut tops – at the time very racy and salacious.
Suggestive and double entrendre catchlines were also used, such as: Couldn’t you go a Chiko Roll? and HIt the Hot Spot and Grab a Chiko.
You didn’t need an overly active imagination to realize that the iconic Chiko Roll looked like a deep fried phallus.
And when it was sold in its own bag it looked like it was wearing a loose and fallible condom –
Why is the Chiko Roll making a featured appearance in this celebrated Road Food blog? Not because it gives me the opportunity to make cheap and grubby jokes – although that certainly does appeal.
No, there’s a deeper cultural reason.
In the new millennium, other fast foods have penetrated the market deeper, and the Chiko Roll sales numbers have become somewhat flaccid. However, it’s still very popular with truckers and traveling reps and anyone wanting to have a quick meal on the road.
The boilerplate nature of the Chiko Roll makes it easy to hold while you’re driving – plus in between bites you can put it in various places around your vehicle.
You can put it in your beverage holder –
You can rest it on the steering wheel –
You can put it under your sunvisor –
You can nestle it in beside the rearview mirror –
And you can put it into other places too –
All you need is a bit of sauce and you’ve got the complete driving experience…