Special Report

20 Irish Foods Explained Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

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1. Barm brack

Also called barmbrack, barn brack, and (in Irish), bairin breac, this is a sweet Irish tea bread, filled with dried currants, golden raisins, and candied citrus peel. Though eaten year round, it’s especially traditional at Halloween, when a token supposedly predicting the future of the person whose slice contains it may be baked in (a ring suggesting imminent marriage, a coin symbolizing coming wealth, etc.).

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2. Blaa

A flour-dusted yeast roll that’s a specialty of the southeastern Irish city of Waterford. It is said to be a variation on the bread made by French Huguenot refugees when they came to Ireland in the 17th century.

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3. Black Pudding

Otherwise known as blood sausage, this is a dark, peppery mixture of ground pork, pork fat, and oatmeal. It is an essential part of the full Irish breakfast (see No. 16), and may also be involved in the Ulster fry (see No. 19).

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4. Bacon and cabbage

This is the meat-and-cabbage dish eaten all over Ireland today, while corned beef and cabbage — which is authentically Irish, despite what many sources say (see No. 11) — has largely been forgotten. The “bacon” involved isn’t American bacon, or even Irish back bacon: In this context, it refers to cured pork loin or shoulder. As with corned beef and cabbage, the meat is long-simmered and combined with boiled cabbage.

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5. Boxty

A kind of potato cake, especially popular in the counties of Cavan, Fermanagh, Derry, and Tyrone (the latter three in Northern Ireland). It was once considered such an essential part of the Irish diet that an old verse went “Boxty on the griddle / Boxty in the pan, / If you can’t make boxty, / You’ll never get a man.” Made by combining grated raw potatoes or a mixture of grated raw and cooked mashed with flour and baking soda, it can be fried in the form of a potato cake or large croquette, but more often resembles a thick pancake. In pancake form, boxty can be folded over various meats, cheeses, or other ingredients.

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