Travelling around Northern Ireland’s many tourist attractions, you’re bound to work up quite an appetite. Luckily, there is a wealth of mouth-watering local food to sample, from hearty main meals to unique tray bakes and sweet or savoury snacks – some of it even celebrated in song. Here’s our pick of the tastiest delicacies.
No cup of tea here in Northern Ireland is complete without a fifteen on the side, and countless cafes in the region serve them up. This delicious fridge traybake is so-called because it contains 15 digestive biscuits, 15 marshmallows and 15 glacé cherries, along with condensed milk and desiccated coconut. Easy to make - and even easier to devour.
The Ulster Fry
You’ve heard of the full Irish and the full English, but what sets the full Ulster fry apart is the inclusion of soda bread or soda farl. Said by some to originate during the Irish Famine, it was apparently devised as a cheaper bread using buttermilk, flour, baking soda and salt. Perfect for soaking up the juices from an indulgent fry-up. Why not try it in your cooked breakfast during a stay at the luxurious Merchant Hotel in the heart of Belfast (and just two hours’ drive from Dublin).
The hit TV show Derry Girls put these cakes on the map after Granda Joe was caught walking down Pump Street having bought one for a new love interest. Consisting of puff pastry and sweetened cream, you can pick one up in practically every Derry bakery and corner shop.
Immortalised in the song Ould Lammas Fair (“Did you treat your Mary Ann to some dulse and yellowman”), this sweet treat is traditionally sold at the annual fair in Ballycastle, County Antrim. Crunchy and sticky, yellowman’s ingredients include brown sugar, butter, golden syrup and vinegar. It’s similar to honeycomb toffee, but a more vibrant shade of yellow. It’s also conjured up in delicious ice-cream form at the five-star Lough Erne Resort’s Catalina Restaurant.
Another flavoursome delicacy sold at the Ould Lammas Fair, this seaweed was first recorded as having been harvested by St Columba’s monks more than 1,400 years ago. An excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein, dulse can be added to a cooked dish to enhance flavour, or dried and eaten as a snack.
The Belfast bap
This floury white bread bap was created by Bernard ‘Barney’ Hughes, a businessman and philanthropist who devised it during the Irish famine as an affordable, standardised bap. The Belfast bap is still sold in the city’s bakeries today, and is even paid tribute to in the children’s song My Aunt Jane with the line, “half a bap with sugar on the top”.
Tayto Cheese and Onion
The beloved Tayto crisp was established in 1956 by the Hutchinson family in Tandragee using local ingredients and materials. Not to be confused with the other Tayto brand, its celebrated cheese and onion recipe has remained the same for the past 60 years and is kept in a closely guarded room within Tayto Castle. Tayto fans can come and visit the castle to learn about how its crisps and snacks are made, and to meet the famous Mr Tayto.
Traditionally served with sausages or boiled ham, champ is created by mashing together scallions, potatoes, and a generous helping of butter, salt and pepper. It’s not to be confused with colcannon, which has the addition of kale, leeks or chives - though both are equally delicious.
This much-loved Irish fruitcake contains mixed spice and moist, dried fruit which has been soaked overnight in black tea. Barmbrack is traditionally eaten at Halloween, when an object such as a coin or ring is added to the mixture and whoever bites into it is considered to have good luck. Simply add a smear of butter to your slice, enjoy with a cup of tea, and watch out for any surprises inside.
Fivemiletown goats’ cheese
Produced in the Fivemiletown Creamery in Co Tyrone, this fantastically tasty goats’ cheese can be sampled at the award-winning Oysters restaurant in Strabane, where it’s served whipped up into a lavender and honey mousse, or in a beetroot risotto at the Brewers’ House in Donaghmore near Dungannon.
A favourite side order in Derry-Londonderry eateries, these crispy, deep-fried onions manage to be light and delicate while still packing a flavoursome punch. Try them for yourself at the city’s Exchange Restaurant – a two-minute walk away from the Maiden City’s four-star City Hotel. Derry is one and a half hours’ drive from Belfast and around three and a half hours from Dublin.
Not strictly a food, but worth a mention for its chocolate content, is the Walled City Brewery’s Derry Milk beer. Hand-crafted from chocolate stout and organic cow’s milk, a pint of this velvety drink is the sweetest way to round off a day of food exploration.
We hope you enjoy some of these local unique delicacies. If you're in the mood for trying to make some of your own, here are some of our local recipes to try. Or get and out and spoil yourself at one of our venues for Afternoon Tea. Tell us all about your experience at #DiscoverNI.