When traveling to Ireland, many of us assume that people speak English. Which they do. But especially when it comes to food, the Irish language has left its traces and English-speaking visitors often find themselves in need of a little deciphering when it comes to the menu.
Here are ten typical Irish foods, some easier to decipher than others:
It’s the staple served at every meal. The Irish are famous for their butter, and every restaurant will provide a decent chunk, usually accompanied with the typical Irish bread (see number two). Butter is also frequently used for cooking, frying and baking.
Without the bread, the butter wouldn’t be nearly as good. Though plain white bread can certainly be had at many establishments, soda bread is what is really typical. The standard ingredients of Irish soda bread include flour, bread soda, salt and buttermilk. It’s the latter that contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda and then forms tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Different variations of soda bread may include raisins, eggs or even nuts.
The tradition of serving potatoes dates back to times of famine, and became known as the food of the poor. Nowadays, it is served as a side dish to just about every plate, but also provides the basis of many other, more elaborate dishes. Note that the Irish potatoes are not sweet potatoes.
Mushrooms (for breakfast)
Oh, the Irish breakfast. It is certainly a hearty one. As a vegetarian, you may need to pass on the “black and white puddings” that include sausage, but the eggs, hash browns, normal potatoes and grilled tomatoes are a real delight. But to me, the real highlight was the mushrooms; every establishment serves them slightly different. Some times they are grilled, some times sautéed and the best I have tried, include a basil stuffing that was hard to beat.
If you eat meat, this is a dish that cannot be missed. The traditional Irish stew is made from lamb or mutton, and includes potatoes, carrots and onions, as well as parsley. Cuddle up on those cold winter nights with a pot of stew, and you’ll be sure to escape the cold.
Another dish that needs just a little bit of translating or deciphering. “Colcannon” meaning “white-headed cabbage” in Irish, which is precisely what the dish includes. Specifically, it includes mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage. The photo tells it all.
If you’re in the mood for a hefty (and relatively inexpensive) meal, this could be your pick. Champ, also known as “poundies,” is similar to colcannon, but originates in the North of Ireland. It consists of creamy mashed potatoes, mixed with scallions or green onions. Usually, it will be accompanied by some kind of meat-based dish.
The Irish really do love their potatoes. Boxty, meaning “poor house bread” is a traditional Irish potato pancake. Recipes will vary throughout the Island, but all include finely grated, raw potatoes and are all served fried. Boxty can be served as an accompaniment to beef or other meat-based dishes.
The best place to get coddle is in Dublin, which is also why it is sometimes known as “Dublin Coddle.” This dish involves layers of roughly sliced pork sausages and rashes with potatoes and onions (also sliced). In the traditional version, it will also include barley. James Joyce even referred to this dish in some of his works, so it must be worth a try.
Tea, Guinness and Whiskey
I couldn’t help but include a drink on the “food” list. The Irish are notorious for being the biggest tea-drinkers worldwide, but beer and whiskey are pretty high up on the most popular beverages list, too. Guinness, in particular, is a beer brand that has attracted a lot of attention, especially because of the landmark Guinness Storehouse that is well worth a visit in Dublin.
Slainte! (Bon appétit in Irish)