top 10 Foods in Northern Ireland
2016 is guaranteed to be a different year for all of us, where, after five-years in Asia, we will take our travels to Europe. For a few of our favourite foods of Asia from the past years, check here, otherwise we’re now off to Northern Ireland, which will be our base for travel from the coming year. You will find a lot planned already but, for now, our only priority is usually to catch up on my home country, as well as its food. While these wouldn’t exactly be the top 10 foods in Northern Ireland, they're my top 10 cravings on my small return. But, given 2016 is Northern Ireland’s Year of Food, I promise to understand more about further. Ever heard of dulse for example? It’s like a dried and uncooked seaweed, which I’ve never eaten before, ever, because it’s seaweed. I’m more of a barbecued meat person. But I will do my best to share with you more. Anyway, you'll find reasons for my cravings of Northern Irish foods and it’s mostly because they aren’t easy to find in Asia. Also, when I travel, I always avoid international comforts such as Irish Bars, or English Pubs, as foods will always be so much better back. Anyway, these are my Top 10 Foods in Northern Ireland. The foodstuffs I’ve not eaten in a long time, and Fanfan is my guinea pig on our return.
Northern Irish Food
1. Ulster Fry
Food in Northern Ireland is usually known for being greasy and fatty, because, frequently, it is. The Ulster Fry would be the ideal example of this, where most mornings will begin with this grease filled masterpiece. It’s just like the Full English Breakfast, only better, with traditional pork sausages, back bacon, fried egg, and mushrooms. But the the Ulster Fry includes some less familiar additions of soda bread, potato bread and black pudding. Black pudding will be what I most look toward. It’s like a savoury pudding having a blending of onions, pork fat, oatmeal and pigs blood. Next would be the potato bread, unique to Northern Ireland, the flat wheat bread blended with potato. Lastly there’s the soda bread, another soft wheat bread, only on this occasion leavened with baking soda. I'd eat my Ulster Fry with Heinz baked beans, which can be arguably not traditional, but, given they’re inaccessible, HP brown sauce constitutes a good substitute. Maybe some tomato for healthiness. Should you choose miss your fry each morning, don’t worry, the Ulster Fry is also found as an “All Day Breakfast”. The example below (top) is at ‘Fed and Watered‘ on a scenic spot along Belfast’s Laganside (at the Big Fish).
2. Fish Suppers
“Fish supper” in Northern Ireland is chip-shop slang for Fish and Chips which can be synonymous with British Food. But they are better in Northern Ireland, or at least from my own experience. In Northern Ireland we’re perfectly located at the top corner of a small island, meaning fresh fish are never far away. The preferred fish is Cod, haddock accumulating in second place, that's dipped in a thick egg batter before deep frying to offer a beautiful, golden coating. For fish suppers I do prefer them from chip shops, wrapped (not boxed) along with lashings of salt and vinegar. I do think this is to do with deep frying at chip shops, helping to make the batter fuller and fluffier than others at restaurants. At restaurants additionally, they serve fish and chips with tartar sauce plus a lemon wedge. Actually, I’d probably provide them with both a go. Also, mushy peas. Mushy peas come up with a great side.
3. Ulster Irish Stew
Ulster Irish stew is comparable to traditional Irish Stew, only it emanates from Ulster province, and it has no carrots. At it’s most rudimentry it is a stew of lamb, potatoes, onions and possibly a garnish of parsley. But there'll always be variations due to influences within the province from English and Scottish settlers. But nowadays you'll be able to really just add any meat and root vegetables towards the recipe. Our own family recipe was transferred from our gran, and further, and it uses the main ingredients of lamb, potato and onions. The only real difference is that the lamb is first flavoured with beef stock cubes (OXO), and is also thickened with a gravy (Bisto). We’d probably eat stew at least a week back home, which is the one recipe I brought beside me to Asia. I will replicate it fairly well. It is usually a food which is often hard to find in restaurants, where it’s really a home cooked favourite. I did so once try Irish stew in Dublin, Ireland that we found oddly soupy when compared, with carrots, also it was disappointing. It had been also served by an Australian lass, therefore the whole experience wasn’t overly authentic. Anyway, my gran’s recipe wins hands down, any day.
4. Steak and Guinness Pie
I do believe of Steak and Guinness Pie as a mix of British and Irish cooking where a traditional steak pie may be updated with generous dollops of Guinness stout. Pies and alcohol, an ideal combination. Normally it is going to use a stewing steak, or chuck steak, that is cooked in a Guinness stout and beef gravy. It's then topped with a baked pastry shell. It will make for perfect pub grub and, given you will find a soft spot for alcohol in Northern Ireland, what's more, it goes well which has a pint of Guinness, as well as perhaps a Bushmills Irish Coffee for dessert. However really do miss pies in Asia where ovens don’t really happens to kitchens, whatsoever. Occasionally you will find specialty kiln-type cookers, employed for roast ducks or whatnot, but in home cooking, ovens just don’t happen. Therefore pies and pastries aren’t simple to come by and the only time I’ve scoffed one was obviously a cottage pie inside the British colonial region from the Cameron Highlands (Malaysia). Before that it was the Steak and Guinness Pie below, which was at Daft Eddys Restaurant along a scenic spot of the Strangford Peninsula.
5. Surf and Turf
Steak was always my go-to western food in Asia, which is the one food very easy to replicate. But beef isn’t really typical to the region, probably due to slow cooking times, and most beef I do find can have been imported from Australia (e.g. Wagyu). The area cuts are also typically tough and chewy. You have the occasional slow cooked dish in Asia like Thai massaman curry, Indonesian rendang, or Filipino bistek, otherwise I must say i miss beef. Steak is therefore what I go for on pub grub menus and, to creating the most of the opportunity, I might mix it up a bit with surf and turf. It is a pairing of seafood (surf) and steak (turf), served with potatoes or chips, much like most foods in Northern Ireland. The surf will more-than-not be scampi, that are battered prawns, and the local favourite is Portavogie prawn scampi, in the small fishing town of Portavogie. The example below is a much more fancy, however, bought at Saint George’s Market Bar and Grill. It’s got scallops and whatnot.
6. Bacon Butties
I have found bacon to be at it’s best between two buttered baps. Note, “bap” is pretty much Northern Irish slang for buns. I really know this is a quite easy sandwich to replicate worldwide, on the other hand can say that I have eaten bacon, across the world, through hundreds of hotel buffet breakfasts, each time I find their measly attempts at bacon to be crap. Maybe we are spoiled in Northern Ireland. Back we go less skimpy, plus more meaty, with back bacon which is somewhere between streaky bacon, as well as a gammon steak. Actually it’s sliced to include both pork loin from your back, and a little pork belly, bringing the best of both worlds. The popular enclosure would be soft flour baps, but slices of bread or toast can do. Also, a squeeze or 2 of brown HP sauce goes well. An excellent start for both back bacon and streaky bacon will be Cookstown, the big local brand. Note, when someone shouts “show us yer baps!”, they’re not speaking about bread.
7. Toasts and Breads
Breads are staple foods in Northern Ireland and, in Asia again, bread isn’t commonly found. After i do find bread it is typically basic sliced white loaves, which weirdly are months without going moldy. Therefore i now get excited with the bread shelves of home. For this post I’m lumping a lot of Northern Ireland’s local breads together where, apart from those mentioned with all the Ulster Fry, my morning favourite will be Veda bread, which is a sticky malt loaf, which can be slightly sweet because it’s created using black treacle. It’s really is perfect when lightly toasted and glistening with melted butter. The opposite big local bread would be wheaten, which is probably the widely used of the two, and is just like a wholemeal version of Northern Ireland’s soda bread. It’s even the healthier bread option. The big local bread brand could be Belfast’s Ormo bakery which should cover all of them. Note, toast in Thailand is called “Kanom Pang Ping”.
8. Pastie Supper
My first stop on arrival are invariably the chip shop and, while we may not be on par with Scotland with battered weirdness, I actually do feel we do hold our personal. My local chip shop is called the Frying Squad, and it’s found just about across the road from me. This is of course a great thing, and a terrible thing, because it would probably be quicker to get a cheap bag of chips, than to microwave a ready meal. Anyway, I could write a post on chip shop food alone, and probably will, but for now I’ll adhere to the Northern Irish favourite of pastie suppers. The pastie is really a spiced minced pork, onion and potato pie fried with a crisp batter. Add the word supper to have it with chips. So, like the fish supper, it's going well with lashings of salt and vinegar, and maybe a squeeze of red (ketchup) or brown (HP). The truth is the pastie supper’s so good, it really is celebrated in my hometown inside a seaside sculpture named the “Pastie Supper Lover”.
9. Bushmills Whiskey
First thing I will reach for after long run flights is Bushmills which, unlike Jameson’s of eire, isn’t easy to find in Asia. I’ve simply found Bushmills a handful of times, each time it was at an obligation free, and it was ‘Green Label’ as opposed to my preferred ‘Black Bush’. Okay, I realize this isn’t exactly ‘Northern Irish food’, but whisky is part of many a balanced diet here where we’re popular for our boozing culture. George Best and Alex Higgins are only two claims to our boozing fame. There's also differences between Scotch and Irish Whiskeys, where Irish Whiskey is triple distilled so that it is smoother. It is also spelled Whiskey, with the added e’, where, while i was told during the grand distillery tour, the ‘e’ stands for ‘excellence’. Note, another tipple to try is Buckfast which, although it originates from Devon England, is synonymous with anti-social banter in Northern Ireland. It’s best enjoyed outdoors, or on the street corner, perhaps a park bench. It’s also available today in tins. “Down the pipes”.
10. Tayto Crisps
On my last visit home I recall being greeted by Tayto’s Bout Ye! banners which are plastered throughout the airport, and every transport hub, and billboard on the route home. But, despite hideous marketing campaigns (that happen to be a norm in Northern Ireland) their crisps actually are quite good. They’re at least handy to pick up on the run and on travels. So Tayto will be the Northern Ireland equivalent to Walkers (or Lays as they’re known beyond your UK) only they’re probably popular here than another crisps. They’re easy to find at all transit stations and each local shop through the entire country. Personally I’d commence with Cheese and Onion, then perhaps move to Salt and Vinegar. Both of them are favourite flavours here, whilst they aren’t really known abroad. Also, Spicy Bikers, even though they used to cost 10p a pack from my grammar school tuck shop. They’re 70p now? Get free from here.