In Ireland you’ll find food is hearty, filling and potatoey. I mean there are a lot of those starchy round things, in one form or another, strategically placed in many of the dishes here. Irish food is homey, which usually makes you feel like wearing your thickest wool socks next to a small crackling fire, while petting your scruffy dog, Brinkley, & listening to the sheep bleating in the farmers’ field outside.
At this moment I’m sitting in a tiny cafe in the heart of Dublin as the rain outside huddles people in twos (threes for the more ambitious city-goers) under single umbrellas. Everyone is trying to escape what can seem like constant drizzle on these Irish streets. But it feels right somehow, like rain belongs to Ireland and it’s people, it refreshes the streets, washes away the rowdy late-night before. From what I’ve seen of Dublin, this city is a party city. Mind you, we’re staying in a hostel adjacent to Trinity College and steps away from Temple Bar.
Anyways, I thought I’d take this time to reflect on some of the favourite foods I’ve had the pleasure of sampling here in Ireland. You’ll find versions of pies & casseroles and the iconic Fish & Chips on most menus, but other dishes like Boxty and Chips & Curry Sauce can be a bit more elusive.
1. Traditional Full Irish Breakfast
This shot was taken in Middleton (near Cork) at a breakfast spot called Pan. Full Irish Breakfasts are just that, FULL of food. The first one I had I actually couldn’t finish, I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it. They’re the perfect hangover food, the perfect anytime dish & quite delicious. Generally, a Full Irish comes with a large skillet-cooked flat-top mushroom, skillet-cooked tomatoes, beans, a couple pieces of bacon, sausage, black pudding, white pudding, fried sunny-side-up egg, fried potatoes, bread, butter & jam.
2. Black & White Pudding
Black & white puddings are a delightful invention. Both are types of pork sausage containing something like oatmeal or barley and shaped into flat, round pieces. The main difference between the two is that a black pudding comes complete with cooked pork blood, hence the colour. I’ve had these with breakfasts and, believe it or not, on the go from some convenience stores.
*You can see the black and white puddings at the bottom of the plate in the image of the Full Irish Breakfast above
3. Irish Stew
If you’re visiting Ireland in the winter and need some sustenance because you forgot to eat lunch, a traditional Irish Stew might be your saving grace. Hearty chunks of meat, like beef or lamb, with equally hearty chunks of carrots & onions, maybe some potatoes, in a delicious dark gravy.
When I first heard about boxty….a potato pancake… I knew we had to meet. You can have it plain, but we went with a version that reminded me of an omelette, but substitute the eggs for grated potato. My potato-omelette-without-eggs filling was a creamy chicken and my sister had a beef stroganoff. These were both at a place called Bricin in the heart of Killarney, and the dish really hit the spot. The restaurant had a homey feel, great service, lots of Irish patrons – located above a little shop along one of the main streets. It was a Saturday night, so the stroll back home afterwards was a little entertaining. Saw a guy stumbling around, obviously just finished a great date with a bottle of fine Irish whiskey, with his right hand fully in a large bag of chips trying to open a pack of candy with his other.
5. Chips & Curry Sauce
I know fish and chips are on a lot of peoples must-eat in Ireland list but man do chips & curry sauce give it a run for it’s money. Honestly I can get really good fish & chips in many pubs & restaurants back home but I can’t find chips & curry sauce (much to my disappointment). Please try these here if you see ‘em. We found some at a little roadside stall near Glendalough Co. Wicklow and boy did they hit the spot. They were 4 euro and on a cold, windy day, after exploring the ruins for an hour or so, they were a welcome addition to my tummy.
6. Seafood Chowder
There’s a theme emerging here and it’s hearty. Creamy seafood chowder with large pieces of salmon, haddock and mussels served with Irish brown bread & butter. Always a good idea.
7. Soda Bread
Simple and delightful in it’s own right. Usually made with flour, buttermilk, bicarbonate soda, egg and honey, the good stuff is a little coarser than the bread you may be used to, but it’s delicious, especially with a smattering of butter.
8. Fish & Chips
Battered & fried pieces of fish with thick cut chips (potato fries). Mashed peas and tartar sauce are traditionally served as sides.
9. Boiled Bacon & Cabbage
There’s really no need for me to explain what this dish is, but just in-case, it’s bacon and cabbage/vegetables that have been boiled & usually served with a gravy. Bought this as a heat-up-and-serve dish at the local supermarket and it was surprisingly good. Back home, any to-go dish that you just throw in the oven tends to let me down but this one had a wonderful parsley gravy that made all the difference. It was a 5 euro investment, that probably saved me 10 euro going out and really just hit the spot.