Bianka Csikos explores how cultural diversity has impacted the Irish diet and the current restaurant scene.
While the ‘Irish Diet’ usually calls to mind a pint of Guinness, a beef stew, or ‘meat and two veg’, Irish cuisine is becoming more expansive, as cities in Ireland welcome more cultural diversity than ever. It is no surprise that the culinary scene is rapidly evolving to mirror this shift.
Traditionally, Irish dishes have used ingredients such as potatoes, barley, and milk, a reflection of the importance of farming and agriculture to the Irish economy. Often viewed as bland, Irish dishes are beginning to change by integrating new spices and ingredients. There is a growing interest in international cuisine, illustrated by the variety of restaurants that are being opened not only in Dublin, but all over the country. Even pubs, which usually offer more traditional dishes such as Guinness stew or fish and chips, are now shifting their menus towards more international dishes, such as fried brie, risotto, nachos and calamari.
Often viewed as bland, Irish dishes are beginning to change by integrating new spices and ingredients.
In fact, there are quite a few current Irish favourites that originate from abroad, such as a Spice bag (featuring Chinese spices), Peri-Peri chicken (Mozambique), Curry (India), Turkey and Cranberry sauce (US), and Jollof rice (Nigeria). The definition of an ‘Irish diet’ is rapidly changing, and supermarket shelves are mirroring this process. Walking into any local supermarket, we are instantly welcomed to stir-fry sauces and fajita kits, whilst many pre-packaged meals feature dishes such as sweet and sour chicken, chicken tikka masala, spaghetti carbonara and taco fries. Curry in Ireland used to mean chicken in a sauce featuring apple chunks and sultanas, but it is obvious that there is a growing market for international food. As these new flavours are becoming integrated into our daily cuisine, the ‘Irish diet’ should no longer be considered bland.
As these new flavours are becoming integrated into our daily cuisine, the ‘Irish diet’ should no longer be considered bland.
These new dietary trends are also reflected in the current restaurant scene. From Asian cuisine to South American cuisine, you can find almost any cuisine in cities such as Dublin, Galway and Limerick. Perhaps some of the biggest trends are Mexican restaurants such as Acapulco, El Grito or burrito bars such as Tolteca; Asian Street food such as Neon Asian Street Food, Xian Street Food and Camile Thai; and Middle Eastern restaurants such as Umi falafel, Reyna and Zaytoon. If you want a taste of this culinary diversity on the UCD campus, Food Truck Thursdays are the right place: the food trucks feature Korean BBQ, Thai cuisine, falafel, burritos, and noodles, celebrating culinary and cultural diversity also on campus.