Traveling to Ireland the summer before my freshman year of college gave me the opportunity to experience Irish food culture in the capital of Dublin and beyond. With so much emphasis placed on local, high-quality (often organic) ingredients, Irish meals were some of the best I’ve ever experienced.
Though the spud features prominently in many Irish dishes, there is much more to Irish cuisine than potatoes. Here are 10 foods that'll help you appreciate Ireland's rich food culture, and that you shouldn't leave the country without trying.
1. Irish breakfast
You actually cannot miss this classic morning meal since it's offered at most hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, and even gas stations. A traditional Irish breakfast contains eggs, bacon, rashers (sausages), roasted mushrooms, a roasted tomato, black pudding, white pudding, and toast. If that sounds like too much, you can always pick and choose the items that sound the best to you and customize your breakfast.
#SpoonTip: Black pudding is a blood sausage made of pork blood, pork fat, oats, and spices; white pudding is similar, minus the pork blood.
2. Irish stew
Irish stew is a must-eat when you go to Ireland. Filled with simple, nourishing ingredients like high-quality meat, vegetables, and the humble potato, this stew is perfect on a cold, rainy day. Irish restaurants make every attempt to use local meat in their dishes, and Irish stew is no exception.
Try to find an Irish stew made with Connemara lamb. This breed of sheep graze freely on the grasses of the Connemara region in Western Ireland and are known for their particularly rich flavor.
#SpoonTip: If you’re vegetarian, don't fear. Most restaurants have meat-free options and are incredibly accommodating with dietary restrictions. Most menus offer allergen information and ingredient lists.
3. Irish pot pie
There's nothing quite like that first flaky bite of pot pie. Filled with meat and vegetables and topped with a crisp butter pastry, these pies are the perfect comfort food. At a tiny shop called The Pie Maker in Galway, I had a fantastic pot pie filled with chicken, mushrooms, and cream.
Few foods in Ireland have quite as much history as boxty, with this potato pancake even inspiring Irish folk rhymes. Usually filled with meat and vegetables and drizzled with a sauce, boxty makes for a filling, savory entrée. If you find yourself in Dublin, go to Gallagher's Boxty House for its world-renowned boxty.
5. Seafood Chowder
Filled with fresh cod, shellfish, vegetables, and cream, a cup of seafood chowder paired with a slice of soda bread is the perfect appetizer. The freshness of the seafood often determines the overall quality of the chowder, and as Irish seafood chowder typically uses seafood that's caught that same day, it's not surprising that it's world-famous.
6. Fish and chips
Though fish and chips are generally associated with England, Ireland certainly knows how to prepare a "fry-up" just as well. They may not be the healthiest choice, but you can't visit Ireland without having them at least once.
The best fish and chips should be fresh out of the fryer, crisp and greasy, but not drenched in oil. If you find yourself in Dingle Town, be sure to check out Reel Dingle Fish for some of the best fish and chips in Ireland.
7. Waterford Blaa
Bakeries in the city of Waterford churn out these soft, white rolls to be shipped out all across Ireland. Light and airy, blaa rolls are often filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables, creating a top-notch sandwich. If you can't make it to Waterford for a blaa, you can find them at Hatch and Sons in Dublin
8. Irish smoked salmon
Smoked salmon is one of Ireland's most famous foods, with its smooth texture and intense flavor that comes from the cold-smoking process. You can find smoked salmon on sandwiches, wraps, salads, or paired with a slice of soda bread.
9. Irish soda bread
10. Murphy's ice cream
A famous ice creamery based in Dingle Town, Murphy's is known for using local ingredients in their products. The fresh cream is from a rare breed of cow called the Kerry, and Murphy's also uses free range eggs and sea salt harvested from Dingle Bay. The Kerry Cream flavor is particularly good, with subtle hints of natural vanilla and a rich consistency.
If you'd like a taste of Ireland at home, check out your local grocery store for Irish KerryGold butter. This widely-available, high-quality, grass-fed butter is an Irish product that you can use in your kitchen.