Unfortunately, Ireland is not too vegetarian/pescetarian friendly. There are some suitable dishes available, but none which are very deep-rooted in traditional Irish cuisine. A standard Irish meal usually consists of meat and two types of vegetables. Visit an old Irish family for dinner when in the country and you will still be served such a meal in lieu of ‘exotic’ fare such as spaghetti carbonara or a Thai red curry. However, meat free dishes are becoming more popular and a selection of vegetarian establishments have been popping up all over the country. This makes it much easier as a pescatarian to eat out, which is something I like to do a lot when on holidays. Nevertheless, the dishes that I do eat are not necessarily traditional. As I know that many tourists like to embrace the culture of wherever it is they are visiting as much as possible, I thought I would put together a short list of Irish dishes as equally as delicious as any containing meat. This way, any vegetarians/pescetarians to the Emerald Isle can say they sampled traditional Irish cuisine without restricting themselves to several pints of Guinness.
Potato and pea pies – Pescetarians need not fear when visiting a local chip shop – some mouth-watering, meat free options are also available. Potato pies and mushy pea pies are two of my favourite things to eat while at home, although I think they are two delicacies local to Cork. Basically, they are mashed potato, onion and thyme (and sometimes cheese) covered in batter and deep-fried, or a portion of mushy peas battered and prepared the same way. I drool just thinking about them.
Colcannon – This is probably more of a side dish but eat as much of it as me and it can become a fully fledged main. Colcannon is basically mashed potato with kale or cabbage, although other ingredients can be added. An alternative to colcannon is a hearty plate of fried leftover cabbage and potatoes, which is also a staple of the Irish household.
Salmon – There are enough salmon rivers which run through Ireland to make it near impossible for the country not to produce some mouth-watering dishes based on that intelligent ol’ fish (if you haven’t caught the reference, read all about The Salmon of Knowledge here). More traditionally, salmon dishes are offered fried, baked or poached. However, the inclusion of salmon in pasta and other more international recipes are becoming more popular. To have the ultimate ‘salmon experience’ in Ireland, choose your supplier careful as many award-winning producers and restaurateurs can be found throughout the country.
Cod – Cod is another great dish for pescatrians to enjoy while in Ireland. I most enjoy cod served battered with side portions of chunky chips and mushy peas. This is an especially tasty dish when purchased from a restaurant or chip shop located by the sea. Sadly, quality cod is becoming a much rarer concept these days due to a problem in supply, but haddock can be a nice alternative. Another tasty way to eat cod is smoked and served with boiled potatoes and a white sauce.
Soda bread – I wanted to say that soda bread is unique to Ireland but my research has confirmed that it was not invented by the Irish at all. However, as it is a delicacy most associated with Ireland, I will cheekily make the claim that you will not be able to sample any such bread in another country. I guess what does make it unique is that it is made using. The “soft wheat” which is the only suitable flour that can grow in Ireland’s climate. I miss this bread a lot when I am not at home at like to make it myself from time to time. I prepare it using this recipe and like to dip it in some delicious red lentil soup (check out my recipe here). Just don’t forget to mark the cross on the bread as legend says it allows the devil to exit the bread and is good luck when cooking.
The Full Irish – The Full Irish breakfast can still be enjoyed as a vegatarian/pescetarian by simply substituting the meat products for extra beans, eggs, hash browns, soda bread, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, or even a veggie sausage. It is equally as tasty and filling as the pork filled plates of others.
Have you visited Ireland before? What was your favourite thing to eat there?