Top 5 Irish Foods You Must Try
Have you ever been to Ireland?
Ireland has a mystical quality like none other. Once you set foot on the endearing Emerald Isle it is hard not to feel enchanted and never want to leave. I have been to Ireland many times and even married an Irishman that I met on my first visit. On my first trip I not only fell in love with my husband, the landscape, the people and the culture but also the unique foods that are part of the everyday Irish fare.
While the Irish consider their unique scones, breads, teas and other culinary masterpieces to be the norm, I found these same foods to be quite a treat and upon my return tips home, these became the foods I missed and would begin to crave.
Even if you never make your way to Ireland you can still enjoy some of the fare.
Here is my top 5 list of Irish foods to try.
1. Irish Soda Bread
If you have ever been to Ireland and have tasted Irish Soda Bread for yourself you will likely understand why I crave it. It is earthy, hearty, grainy and satisfying, and has a taste all its own. While most breads use yeast as a leavener, soda bread, as its name denotes, instead uses baking soda. This wonderful bread can be served with a topping of butter, cream cheese or served as a side to a rich stew. (see more about Irish Soda Bread)
2. Irish Tea
Having grown up in the “states” I only knew of Tetley Tea and that it was primarily considered an alternative to coffee. Looking back, I came to realize just how little I knew. It wasn't until traveling to Ireland that I found that tea is practically a way of life. Dinner is even called 'Tea.' Boy was I surprised when a full meal was placed down in front of me at "Tea." There are tea breaks that take place at mid-morning and afternoon, and everyone it seems knows how to make a great cup. It took me a few weeks to decipher the words "want a cup of tea?" which sounded like “wana cupa tay”. With the Irish brogue and confusing word phrasing, it took me a great number of tries before I knew what was being said to me. But now that I do, I sometimes am the one offering the soothing hot “tay.” Tea in Ireland is not just a drink but a perfect excuse to take a break and chat with your co-workers, friends or family.
3. Pint of Guinness
I am not a drinker, not in any way shape or form, but when traveling and trying to take in the local culture I have been known to make many exceptions to my rules. I have tasted my fair share of the foamy black stuff, usually in half pints, and I do like it. I have even visited the Guinness museum in Dublin, which is truly worth the trip and a free pint is included with admission. Guinness is such a way of life in Ireland and believed to be beneficial to health. As surprising as it may seem to some, Guinness was even served to young children; parents believed its high iron content was good for the wee ones. I don't recommend this but think it is interesting and certainly points out how much more me know about health.
The name "Hob Nob" comes from an earlier phrase, to hob or nob, meaning "to drink together, taking turns toasting one another", probably from Middle English.
4. Chocolate Coated Hob Nob Biscuts
Here is another addiction that I have picked up on my numerous trips to Ireland. It has become the only cookie that I crave, that is scary considering that you can't get these cookies just anywhere. It is a perfect combination of a grainy and hearty cookie with coating of chocolate in a choice of dark or light. Most cookies served in Ireland are designed to go with a cup of tea and these are perfect tea and milk dunkers. I am very lucky in regards to these cookies that they are readily available in the international section of my local grocery store. Maybe you can find them too.
5. Irish Scones
No matter what corner of the Emerald Isle I roamed, whether it was a small coastal village or an out of the way ring fort museum, I could always find the perfect pairing of a hot cup of tea and a fresh Irish scone. This combination was just enough to fill me up and keep me going until my next meal. These scones are rich and filled with a huge dose of Irish TLC. In 'the states' you can find Irish Scone mixes in most supermarkets but I have an incredible recipe that is so good that the scones are usually gone before you have finished your cup-o-tay. I have even tested out this recipe on my Irish in-laws with rave reviews.
A poem highlighting the differing pronunciations of the word "scone."
I asked the maid in dulcet tone
To order me a buttered scone
The silly girl has been and gone
And ordered me a buttered scone.
Although my first visit to Ireland was many years ago, the experience lives on both in my love of the country, the people and in the experience of these unique foods and beverages. While you may never make the journey to this mystical country, I invite you to take this brief walk with me through the Irish culinary countryside.
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© 2012 Tracy Lynn Conway
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