Things to eat in Ireland
You know when you travel to Ireland that you're going to see mesmerising landscapes and make unforgettable memories. What you might not be aware of is that you'll also get tastebud-tingling, stomach-filling food you simply can't get anywhere else. While Irish food might conjure up images of hearty and heavy meals that, let's face it, don't look all that appetising, nowadays it's actually considered to be quite rustic with a focus on farm-to-table produce and the freshest local ingredients you can find. Whether you want to try the traditional Irish stew or treat your palette to a shellfish smorgasbord, we've put together a list of the 7 things you simply have to eat when you're in Ireland.
1. Soda bread
Made with sodium bicarbonate instead of traditional yeast (hence the name 'soda'), this doughy bread was popularised in Ireland during the 1830s as it was easy and inexpensive to make. From adding a bit of it to your full Irish breakfast to serving it on the side of a hearty, lamb stew, soda bread is now synonymous with Irish cuisine and it'd be hard to find a restaurant or bakery in Ireland that doesn't offer it. Nowadays, there are plenty of soda bread varieties including sweeter versions made with raisins and caraway seeds and versions that are eaten in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.
2. Irish stew
There's no better way to embrace Ireland than chowing down on an Irish stew so the minute you step off the plane or disembark the ferry we recommend you head straight for the nearest pub or restaurant and order yourself a big bowl of it. Traditionally made with root vegetables and lamb, mutton, or beef, this comforting meal also became popular during the 19th century when money was scarce and the need for filling, protein-packed food was high. Considering how tasty it is, it's no wonder why the stew is one of Ireland's national dishes.
Being an island, Ireland has direct access to some of the world's best seafood so it would almost be impolite to travel to the Emerald Isle and not sample some of their tasty shellfish. Irish seafood is actually known to be some of the most flavoursome going 'round so while you're in Ireland, try the oysters farmed in Galway and the prawns straight out of Dublin Bay. You can also sample some scallops, crab claws, and fresh mussels if you're into having an epic seafood banquet (who isn't).
Commonly enjoyed in counties such as Sligo, Donegal, Mayo, Longford, Cavan, and Leitrim (among others), Boxty is a traditional potato pancake. Prepared and eaten to celebrate various holidays including the Feast of Brigid, this Irish dish is made up of boiled mashed potatoes, raw grated potatoes, flour, baking soda, butter, milk, and salt, although most households alter the recipe slightly to include more ingredients and different flavours. The good news? You won't have to search far and wide for this dish as most restaurants throughout Ireland serve it so prepare your tastebuds for a fried potato feast.
5. White pudding
You might be familiar with the world's love for black pudding but did you know that its blood-less neighbour, white pudding, is very popular in Ireland? While black pudding has a softer and often saltier taste, white pudding has an oatmeal-like texture to it that makes it perfect to eat on top of toast as part of a full Irish breakfast. Made with pork, spices, and you guessed it - a little bit of oatmeal, white pudding can be found at most breakfast and brunch spots throughout Ireland so prepare to start your day the right (and Irish) way.
Another festive dish you have to try, especially if you're travelling to Ireland in September, is barmbrack. Often shortened to 'brack', this dish is a quick-to-make bread filled with raisins and sultanas for a fruity sweet treat that's perfect for afternoon tea. While this bread can be eaten all year round, it's more commonly associated with Halloween when symbolic trinkets such as a ring or a coin are added into the mix. These trinkets are a form of fortune-telling with each one representing something different; a coin to symbolise wealth, a ring to symbolise an impending marriage, a matchstick symbolising an angry dispute and so on.
Potatoes are pretty much a staple of traditional Irish cooking so dishes such as Colcannon (made with mashed potatoes, cabbage, and some form of pork) remain a favourite among carbohydrate-loving locals. And if it's a dish the locals love, that means you, as a traveller, have to try it. While it's not commonly eaten at home anymore, it can be found on most gastropub and restaurant menus throughout Ireland. Similar to that of Barmbrack, this dish is also associated with celebrations such as St. Patrick's Day and Halloween where small trinkets are hidden in the mash as a way to predict the fortune of whoever finds it in their portion.