When someone begins talking about Irish food, what comes into your mind? Let me guess – corned beef and cabbage, isn’t it? Or perhaps Irish stew with Guinness and potatoes? The funny thing is, almost everyone who visits Ireland is actually surprised to learn that these dishes are not even featured in most menus in Irish restaurants!
This doesn’t mean, however, that corned beef and cabbage or ‘Irish’ stew are not eaten – they are, along with bacon and cabbage (a real traditional Irish food) as well as a host of other delicious, savoury, and delectable dishes. What you should know is that most traditional or classic Irish food makes use of ingredients that are simple yet tasty, and today, you can still find some of these dishes in many restaurants in Dublin city, albeit with a more modern twist given to them by savvy new chefs.
Traditional Irish ingredients – starting with pork!
If you really want to get a taste of traditional Irish food, then you should not forget pork. In Ireland’s long history, pork was always a staple, especially for those who could not afford beef (and there were many). As a matter of fact, beef was seen as the food of the rich, but pork was something that most anyone could afford at most times.
As with most ingredients, not much was wasted when it comes to pork. One of Ireland’s most well known and well loved dishes is Crubeens, or pig’s trotters. Today, there is a restaurant serving dinner or lunch in Dublin that pays homage to this famous ingredient in its name: Le Bon Crubeen, translated into ‘the good Crubeen.’ But Irish restaurants in Dublin like this not only serve traditional, hearty Irish favourites – they also offer fine dining in Dublin, so you can get the best of both worlds when it comes to your palate.
Apart from Crubeens, tripe was also a popular ingredient in traditional Irish food, as well as Drisheen, otherwise known as blood sausage. Perhaps one famous Irish concoction that is known the world over (and makes generous use of pork) is the fried breakfast, which is comprised of pork favourites such as bacon rashers, pork sausages, and black pudding, which is another kind of blood sausage.
Ireland’s love story with the potato
It can be said that Ireland has a long history with this most humble spud, with the potato first saving the citizens of the country and then almost destroying them. Today, needless to say, the potato is still a staple in many Irish kitchens, and is eaten in a variety of ways – whether it’s mashed, boiled, fried, baked, or chipped. Potatoes are also mixed with other ingredients like scallion or cabbage to make champ or colcannon, respectively, or made into potato cakes or used in stews or soups. In some homes, the potato is even prepared and served two ways in one single meal. Many Irish supermarkets, in fact, stock several varieties of potatoes, with each variety specifically suited for a particular cooking method, and varieties varying with the seasons as well.
If you would really like a taste of ‘traditional’ Irish food, then make sure you stick with the above-mentioned ingredients, and you can hardly go wrong. In Ireland, especially in cities like Dublin, you are sure to find a dish or meal that will be a delight for your taste buds – and your budget, as well.
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