Quick: if someone asked you to name an Irish food, what’s the first dish that comes to mind? If you’re like most Americans, you’re going to say “corned beef and cabbage”. And technically speaking, you’d be wrong. Among food historians, it’s widely agreed that while corned beef has its roots in Ireland, the Irish themselves rarely ate it... and still don’t. These days it’s one of the cheaper cuts of meat, yet Irish corned beef producers in the 18th and 19th centuries exported nearly all of it since most people back then couldn't afford it. So, if you’re traveling to Ireland for the first time, don’t bother asking for corned beef and cabbage, unless you want to get a good laugh from your Irish hosts.
With that said, there’s some terrific food to be found in Ireland. One does involve boiled meat and cabbage, and this is the one that I like to make on St. Patrick’s Day! It's both a tip of my hat to my Irish grandmother and a sign of respect for authentic Irish cooking.
Boxty: It won’t surprise you to know that potatoes are a big part of traditional Irish cooking. Boxty is Ireland’s signature potato pancake; made with both mashed and shredded potatoes, boxty patties are typically fried in a skillet and served with butter.
Colcannon: Colcannon is one of two popular varieties of kicked-up mashed potatoes. Chopped green onions and either shredded cabbage or kale are stirred into the spuds, with plenty of milk and butter. In a good colcannon, the potatoes are smooth, with no chunks.
Smoked salmon: Salmon is hugely popular in the island nation. Irish smoked salmon is cured and then smoked at a low temperature; it has the texture of lox, but with a slightly smokier flavor. Click here for 10 great Irish salmon recipes.
Irish Stew: “Irish stew” is a generic term covering all sorts of one-pot meals. There are a few rules of thumb: it has to have some sort of meat (usually lamb, sometimes beef, and occasionally mutton), it has to have potatoes and onions, you can add some Guinness if you like (I do), and the presence of carrots is the cause of many a heated discussion.
Dublin Coddle: It’s a bold statement, calling a dish “the ultimate Irish comfort food”, but Dublin coddle might just claim that title. Sausage, bacon, onions, and potatoes go into a pot with beef, chicken or ham broth; the pot is then covered and goes into the oven for a few hours.
“Bacon” and Cabbage: The classic Irish Boiled Dinner probably has its origins with this meal. Bacon and cabbage is traditionally a large cut of lean slab bacon, boiled on the stove top, with cabbage added during the last ten minutes. The version I make is easy, and delicious. Simply brine a pork shoulder or butt roast (I’ve also used a pork loin roast) in salt water overnight, put the pot on the stovetop and boil it for a few minutes, drain that water and replace with fresh water, and boil again for a few hours. Add cabbage and carrots (yes, I stand by the carrots in this case), and you’ve got a great, authentic Irish meal. Here’s the complete Irish “Bacon” and Cabbage recipe, via Bon Appétit. Like just about everything in Ireland, it pairs well with a Guinness. Sláinte!
You already know that Ireland is one of the most iconic places in the world to tip a pint with a local. There’s nothing quite like sipping a Guinness in a traditional Irish pub in Killarney, Kenmare or Dingle, surrounded by friendly residents and listening to a local band. But what about those places in the world you don’t expect to sit and sip the traditional spirits with natives? You never know what stories you’ll hear over a shared drink with local friends. So, pull up a seat, fill your glass, and enjoy… we’ve rounded up seven of our favorite cities in the world to drink with a local.