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Nostalgia for Northern Irish Foods

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2016 is guaranteed to be considered a different year for all of us, where, after five years in Asia, we're going to take our travels to Europe. For a few of our favourite foods of Asia through the past years, check here, otherwise we’re now away and off to Northern Ireland, which is to be our base for travel inside the coming year. There exists a lot planned already but, for now, our only priority is always to catch up on my home country, and of course its food. While these wouldn’t exactly function as top 10 foods in Northern Ireland, they may be my top 10 cravings on my own return. But, given 2016 is Northern Ireland’s Year of Food, I promise to educate yourself regarding further. Ever heard of dulse by way of example? It’s like a dried and uncooked seaweed, which I’ve never eaten before, ever, because it’s seaweed. I’m much more of a barbecued meat person. However i will do my best to share with you more. Anyway, you will find reasons for my cravings of Northern Irish foods and it’s mostly simply because they aren’t easy to find in Asia. Also, when I travel, I always avoid international comforts like Irish Bars, or English Pubs, as foods are invariably so much better back home. Anyway, these are my Top ten Foods in Northern Ireland. The foodstuff 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 frequently known for being greasy and fatty, because, a lot of times, 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 could be what I most look to. It’s like a savoury pudding with 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 this time leavened with baking soda. I would eat my Ulster Fry with Heinz baked beans, that is arguably not traditional, but, given they’re out of stock, HP brown sauce produces a good substitute. Maybe some tomato for healthiness. Should you miss your fry each day, don’t worry, the Ulster Fry can also be found as an “All Day Breakfast”. The example below (top) is at ‘Fed and Watered‘ on a scenic spot along Belfast’s Laganside (nearby the Big Fish).

Northern Ireland

2. Fish Suppers

“Fish supper” in Northern Ireland is chip-shop slang for Fish and Chips which is synonymous with British Food. But they are better in Northern Ireland, at least from my own experience. In Northern Ireland we’re found in the top corner of an small island, meaning fresh fish aren't far away. The preferred fish is Cod, haddock accumulating in second place, that is dipped in a thick egg batter before deep frying to present a beautiful, golden coating. For fish suppers Ladies them from chip shops, wrapped (not boxed) with lashings of salt and vinegar. I believe this is to do with deep frying at chip shops, helping to make the batter fuller and fluffier than these at restaurants. At restaurants in addition they serve fish and chips with tartar sauce plus a lemon wedge. Actually, I’d probably allow them to have both a go. Also, mushy peas. Mushy peas create a great side.

3. Ulster Irish Stew

Ulster Irish stew is similar to traditional Irish Stew, only it originates from Ulster province, and it has no carrots. At it’s most basic it is a stew of lamb, potatoes, onions and possibly a garnish of parsley. But customers with rock-bottom prices 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 additional, and it uses the first ingredients of lamb, potato and onions. The only difference is that the lamb is first flavoured with beef stock cubes (OXO), and it is 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 can replicate it fairly well. It is usually a food which can be hard to find in restaurants, where it’s more of a home cooked favourite. Used to do once try Irish stew in Dublin, Ireland i found oddly soupy in contrast, with carrots, plus it was disappointing. It turned out also served by an Australian lass, and so the whole experience wasn’t overly authentic. Anyway, my gran’s recipe definitely wins, any day.

4. Steak and Guinness Pie

I do believe of Steak and Guinness Pie as being a mix of British and Irish cooking where a traditional steak pie has become updated with generous dollops of Guinness stout. Pies and alcohol, the ideal combination. Normally it is going to use a stewing steak, or chuck steak, that's cooked in a Guinness stout and beef gravy. This will make it topped with a baked pastry shell. It does make for perfect pub grub and, given you will find there's soft spot for alcohol in Northern Ireland, additionally, it goes well with a pint of Guinness, and perhaps a Bushmills Irish Coffee for dessert. But I really do miss pies in Asia where ovens don’t really happens to kitchens, whatsoever. Occasionally there are specialty kiln-type cookers, utilized for roast ducks or whatnot, but also in home cooking, ovens just don’t happen. Therefore pies and pastries aren’t very easy to come by and the only time I’ve scoffed one was obviously a cottage pie inside the British colonial region of the Cameron Highlands (Malaysia). Before that it was the Steak and Guinness Pie below, which was at Daft Eddys Restaurant along a scenic spot with the Strangford Peninsula.

5. Surf and Turf

Steak was always my go-to western food in Asia, because it's the one food an easy task to replicate. But beef isn’t really usual to the region, probably on account of slow cooking times, and most beef I do find could have been imported from Australia (e.g. Wagyu). The neighborhood cuts are also typically tough and chewy. You will find the occasional slow cooked dish in Asia like Thai massaman curry, Indonesian rendang, or the Filipino bistek, otherwise I seriously miss beef. Steak is therefore what I go for on pub grub menus and, to earning the most of the opportunity, I'd personally mix it up a bit with surf and turf. It is a pairing of seafood (surf) and steak (turf), served with potatoes or chips, as well as 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 capital of scotland- Portavogie. The example below is a little more fancy, however, purchased 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 just Northern Irish slang for buns. Therefore i 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 get crap. Maybe we are spoiled in Northern Ireland. Back home we go less skimpy, and more meaty, with back bacon which can be somewhere between streaky bacon, as well as a gammon steak. Actually it’s sliced to incorporate both pork loin in the back, and a little bit of pork belly, bringing the best of both worlds. The popular enclosure would be soft flour baps, but slices of bread or toast will do. Also, a squeeze or 2 of brown HP sauce goes well. A good 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. While i do find bread it is normally basic sliced white loaves, which weirdly last for months without going moldy. And so i now get excited with the bread shelves of home. Because of this post I’m lumping a lot of Northern Ireland’s local breads together where, apart from those mentioned with the Ulster Fry, my morning favourite will be Veda bread, which is a sticky malt loaf, that is slightly sweet because it’s made with black treacle. It’s really is perfect when lightly toasted and glistening with melted butter. The opposite big local bread can be wheaten, which is probably the widely used of the two, and is as being a wholemeal version of Northern Ireland’s soda bread. It’s also the healthier bread option. The top local bread brand could be Belfast’s Ormo bakery which should cover them. Note, toast in Thailand is called “Kanom Pang Ping”.

8. Pastie Supper

My first stop on arrival are invariably the chip shop and, in the end may not be on par with Scotland with battered weirdness, I truly do feel we do hold our very own. My local chip shop is known as the Frying Squad, and it’s found just about across the road from me. This really is of course a great thing, along with a terrible thing, because it would probably be better to get a cheap candy, than to microwave a ready meal. Anyway, I could write a post on chip shop food alone, and possibly will, but for now I’ll continue with the Northern Irish favourite of pastie suppers. The pastie is a spiced minced pork, onion and potato pie deep fried with a crisp batter. Add some word supper to be with chips. So, exactly like the fish supper, it is going well with lashings of salt and vinegar, and possibly a squeeze of red (ketchup) or brown (HP). In fact the pastie supper’s so good, it can be celebrated in my hometown in the seaside sculpture named the “Pastie Supper Lover”.

9. Bushmills Whiskey

The very first thing I will reach for after long term flights is Bushmills which, unlike Jameson’s of Ireland, isn’t easy to find in Asia. I’ve only really found Bushmills a handful of times, and every time it was at a duty free, and it was ‘Green Label’ as opposed to my preferred ‘Black Bush’. Okay, I am aware this isn’t exactly ‘Northern Irish food’, but whisky belongs to many a balanced diet here where we’re recognized for our boozing culture. George Best and Alex Higgins are simply two claims to our boozing fame. There are also differences between Scotch and Irish Whiskeys, where Irish Whiskey is triple distilled which makes it smoother. It is also spelled Whiskey, with the added e’, where, because i was told throughout the grand distillery tour, the ‘e’ means ‘excellence’. Note, another tipple to try is Buckfast which, as it originates from Devon England, is symbolic of anti-social banter in Northern Ireland. It’s best enjoyed outdoors, or over a street corner, maybe a park bench. It’s also now available in tins. “Down the pipes”.

10. Tayto Crisps

On my small last visit home From the being greeted by Tayto’s Bout Ye! banners that had been plastered throughout the airport, and each transport hub, and billboard on the way home. But, despite hideous marketing campaigns (that are a norm in Northern Ireland) their crisps actually are quite good. They’re a minimum of handy to pick up on the run and on travels. So Tayto is the Northern Ireland equal to Walkers (or Lays as they’re known outside the UK) only they’re probably widely used here than every other crisps. They’re easy to find at all transit stations and every local shop throughout the country. Personally I’d begin with Cheese and Onion, then maybe move to Salt and Vinegar. Are favourite flavours here, although they aren’t really known abroad. Also, Spicy Bikers, although they used to cost 10p a pack from my grammar school tuck shop. They’re 70p now? Get free from here.


Posted Jan 04, 2016 at 9:59am