Many people think Irish food is just an endless procession of stew, cabbage, and potatoes, but actually the dining scene might surprise you. Tourists should endeavor to at least try to savor local specialties, especially since it’s not every day you get the chance to try a true Irish Coddle or Ulster Fry.
1. Irish Stew
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The good old Irish stew once was a typical peasant dish, but current prices in Irish restaurants might put it more within the culinary sphere of the well-to-do. Basically, a thick casserole containing lamb or mutton, onions, parsley, and a generous helping of potatoes. The meat may be diced or minced and peas and carrots might liven up the dish a bit. Depending on the cook’s taste, the stew can also be either soupy or thick and chunky. Although lamb is the traditional meat used in Irish Stew, beef and pork are also quite common.
2. The Full Irish
Also known as a “fried breakfast” or locally an “Ulster fry,” the full Irish breakfast will combine any or all of the following—fried or scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, and fried potato bread. All accompanied by slices of toast, jam, marmalade, sauces and copious amounts of tea or coffee. Basically, a day’s intake of calories in one sitting. Also known as “heart attack on a platter”—but extremely enjoyable.
For those on the move, the Breakfast Roll praised in song and immortalized in economics might be a quicker alternative if you don’t have time to enjoy the full breakfast.
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Regarded as a delicacy in other countries, salmon was one of the most common fish in Ireland and a staple ingredient of the Irish kitchen. Preparation typically includes poaching the fresh salmon in fish stock and then serving with peas and potatoes, but fried salmon is also quite popular and pasta dishes with salmon are catching on as well.
The most popular way to enjoy salmon in Ireland is simply smoked, either on bread, with scrambled egg or simply on its own with a salad side. Wild salmon has a better flavor, but unfortunately is priced higher than farmed salmon.
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Only widely available between September and April, these once were once considered food for the poor. Oysters were plentiful and free on the Irish coast before they became a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in “better circles.” Normally served on ice with a helping of seaweed, oysters were a no-frills food and would be traditionally paired with a pint of Guinness.
5. Baked Ham
Definitely not a poor man’s dish, the traditional Irish ham was coated with sugar, dressed with cloves, then baked until crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. Typically, the ham is served with loads of boiled cabbage and cooked or fried potatoes. This is quite a festive meal and not an everyday occasion, but you can sometimes find a bargain in a pub.
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Despite how many lamb and sheep you’ll see while driving through Ireland, their meat can be quite expensive. The best parts are fine cutlets or a traditional rack of lamb. Both are accompanied by potatoes and sometimes served with mint sauce or jelly.
7. Dublin Coddle
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Before Dubliners go out on a Saturday night, you’ll likely find them eating this common dish. Irish Coddle consists of chopped sausages and bacon cooked together with onions and potatoes in beef stock. Filling, satisfying, and guaranteed to provide a good base for the drinks to follow.