For some reason, I’m unsure why, but Ireland and the United Kingdom always got a bad rap for their food. I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed and after a month in Ireland, I was not proven wrong. Much like Canada, it is not so much specific dishes, although there are a few, but more about the amazing quality in their products, meat, seafood and produce. So fear not when you come to Ireland. You will eat well and I assure you, enjoy it all the more. So when that time comes and you find yourself on the emerald isle, here are 14 of the Best Foods to EAT in Ireland.
14 of the Best Foods to Eat in Ireland
Well known and underappreciated. How many people I’ve seen cringe or curl up their nose when mention of this is heard, I could not count. If they’re unfamiliar with it, the same reaction comes when they learn the main ingredient is blood. Fools for not even giving it a chance. Hopefully that’s enough berating to make you try it and when you do, try the best. Clonakilty is famous nationwide, while another great brand is Rosscarbery, both hailing from West Cork. Fresh pig’s blood, oats and spices are the usual make up for this rich, flavourful sausage. Black pudding can easily be found served on any proper full Irish breakfast, which brings me to the next must eat.
A full Irish is an obvious must. This was my first and last meal in Ireland. Unhealthy, greasy and great with a pint of Guinness. Perfect for those dreary, hungover mornings and don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll have a few here. Each one will vary ever so slightly, but the main components are an egg or two, hash brown, black and white pudding, bacon, sausage and toast. From here it could have the addition of grilled tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, soda bread, farl (potato bread) and I’m sure I’m still missing a couple. Sorry vegetarians as this is probably not your idea of a balanced breakfast, but it is heavenly. Somehow a blissful experience as it eases you back to bed for a kip.
This one is broad, but ultimately you’re on an island nation so the seafood is guaranteed to be local, fresh and superb. Seafood was the majority of my diet while here. I found it hard not to order. From smoked Atlantic salmon (or organically raised), monkfish, famous Dublin bay prawns, sea trout, all sorts of molluscs and this list could just keep going. Needless to say, indulge yourself while the getting is good. A great way to sample a variety of seafood is by attending the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival and the restaurants in the city during this time featuring many fruits of the sea. Check out my experience at the festival here, Galway International Oyster Festival 2017.
Fish ‘n’ Chips
Another classic that kind of goes without saying. Crispy beer battered fish, quite often cod, halibut, plaice or hake, with thick cut chips, mushy peas, tartar sauce and a lemon. Nothing else I think needs to be said about this as you’ll see it at every pub and local chippys dedicated to it. Make sure to pick up a few.
Last one in the seafood category, but these are specific dishes. The seafood chowder throughout the whole of this country has been simply define. Rich, velvety cream soup with hearty chunks of local seafood and often mussels always served with homemade brown bread which is something to love all in itself. This makes for a perfect lighter lunch and I’m sure you’ll be having more than one bowl.
When it comes to Irish meat, much of it is of top quality. With all the gorgeous, lush green farmland, perfect for those grazing livestock it is generally all grass fed and beautifully raised. For me in particular, the Irish lamb is something to try. Tender, flavourful and succulent meat, you can’t go wrong with a portion of this. Whether a rack, rump, leg, chop, shank or offal you’re in for a good feed.
Playing off the lamb above, Irish stew is a perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. Different from a stew in the traditional sense as the broth is much thinner. Only slightly thickened by the natural starch of the potatoes, it is rich in flavour from the meat simmered in it. All in larger chunks, potato, carrot and onion consist of the vegetables and tender, fall apart in your mouth lamb make up the rest. This is simple country cooking, comfort food at its finest and something I’ve made at home many times since. I can’t forget the delicious brown bread that comes along with this dish as well.
Steak and Guinness Pie
Meat pies in general are a great meal choice, but I feel like this one in particular must be eaten at least once. Hearty chunks of stewed beef with potatoes, carrot and onion in a dark rich beef and Guinness gravy encased in pastry, it really is a recipe for success.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Irish love their potatoes in all shapes, sizes and preparations. With that said, there is a couple that I found quite unique to Ireland. Boxty, in particular was something I’d never heard of before coming here. It seemed to differ slightly from county to county, but the most common rendition of this dish seemed to be a potato based pancake. Folded over similar to a crepe it held a stew inside safely (mine was a lamb curry). To try one, I recommend going to a Boxty House, obviously specializing in such a thing. I found one in Killarney, called Bricin, but I know they can be found all over.
Bread and Butter Pudding
On to the sweet side of things. This is another classic, but beware. While a bread and butter pudding smothered in velvety crème anglaise is a thing of indulgent beauty, it can very easily be done poorly. I had a few that fell flat, but when I get that one that’s just right, you forget about the rest.
When in season, rhubarb crumble often with strawberry is a match made in heaven. If they grow together, they must go together. This is true of many things and this is no different.
I’m not sure if this one is Irish per say, but nevertheless, I saw it nearly on every dessert menu. As the name indicates, it is a cookie crust with a layer caramel, banana and whipped cream. Yet again, simple and delicious.
There are many artisan producers throughout the country. No matter where you go, you’ll be able to find some at the markets or try a cheese plate after dinner instead of the sweets. Not being able to find it at home, a treat for me was a raw milk cheese plate.
Beer and Whiskey
Not technically a food, even though Guinness is often referred to as a meal in a glass. These make up their own food group here in Ireland. These becadme a daily occurrence. Well, at least one a day keeps the doctor away (Shhh, don’t burst my bubble). Whiskey tastings and distillery tours are definitely something to include in your itinerary and to try them all is impossible, but I suggest challenging yourself to do so. As far as beers go, well everyone knows of Guinness and I don’t care if you like it or not… drink a few, you’re in Ireland. It’s one of my favourites, but there is a large selection of different well known brews throughout the country (Murphys, Beamish, Smithwicks, and Kilkenny to name a few), along with the craft beer craze that has swept the world by storm.
With this list of 14 of the Best Foods to Eat in Ireland, I hope it puts anyone at ease when thinking about the food scene of Ireland. I’m personally drooling as I write this. Not only is there excellent food and drink, they celebrate their food culture with multiple food festivals around the country. Interested in delving further into the food scene of Ireland? Plan your trip around these and get a further inside look into the great ingredients this wonderful country has.
As mentioned before check out my post on the Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival, as well as my post on a Taste of West Cork as I discovered some of what this bountiful foodie capital of Ireland had to offer. I unfortunately couldn’t attend the festival itself this time around, but hope to in the future. For more information on the festival alone click here.