Corned Beef and Cabbage - traditional or not? - Traditional Irish Food from Ireland

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An ongoing friendly disagreement between Bradley and I has been whether or not corned beef and cabbage is eaten with mustard or not. During our first year together, Bradley asked me if I like corned beef because he was planning to make some on St. Patrick's Day. I excitedly responded that I thought corned beef and cabbage with spicy mustard was delicious!

He and his family were appalled and informed me that corned beef was not eaten with mustard. I tried to convince them otherwise. I actually hated mustard while growing up. I only started to appreciate the flavor in my adult life, but I still believed that corned beef and spicy mustard go together. Bradley did end up trying it with mustard, but still felt it was more traditional without.

When we started planning our first year of travel, we knew we wanted to visit Ireland. Ireland and Northern Ireland have been featured in movies and TV shows like Leap Year, P.S. I Love You, Star Wars – The Last Jedi (Skellig Michael), and Game of Thrones (N. Ireland). The landscapes are breathtakingly beautiful, and the friendliness of the people and culture beckon you to visit again and again.

As we were flying over to the Emerald Isle, we talked about how we would find out whether the Irish ate their corned beef with mustard or not so that we could settle our disagreement.

One of our first nights in Ireland, we went to Johnnie Fox's pub, "the highest pub in Ireland." They had homemade breads, seafood chowder, and "traditional bacon and cabbage." Bacon? Maybe the bacon in this area is similar to corned beef? We decided to give it a try. The bacon served in the dish is more like ham slices with a bit more salt. The meal was delicious and the gravy/sauce it comes with is addicting. But where was the corned beef??

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When we got back to our Airbnb, we asked our host's son if corned beef or bacon was more traditional. He said bacon is definitely more traditional as he'd only tried corned beef a couple of times in his life and had never seen it on a menu. Well, a quick online search helped us find this history about corned beef. Basically what was originally called corned beef in the 1600s changed in the mid-1800s after the Great Famine and immigration of Irish to America. The corned beef currently enjoyed throughout the US is thanks to the Irish immigrants who settled next to Jewish communities and bought their meats from kosher butchers. WHAT? Did you know that corned beef and cabbage was an Irish-American tradition?

Since Ireland doesn't serve corned beef and cabbage, we couldn't find out if it was traditionally served with mustard or not. But the traditional bacon and cabbage we had was not served with mustard. What about you? Do you eat your corned beef with or without mustard? Let us know in the comments!

Are you planning to take a vacation or holiday in Ireland? It is one of the most amazing trips that we have ever been on and we highly recommend it! We would recommend spending a week or two to see as much as you possibly can - as well as giving yourself the opportunity to try plenty of Bacon and Cabbage!

If you prefer to see Dublin and the charming Southwest highlights of Ireland, we recommend taking the Taste of Ireland tour, which is 5 days long and includes a walking tour of Dublin, a traditional Irish song & dance dinner show at the Merry Ploughboy Pub, and all of our other favorite places in southwest Ireland - the ideal Irish town of Killarney, the amazing Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and it even includes a Medieval Castle Banquet dinner INSIDE Bunratty Castle as a farewell! We couldn’t recommend it more!

Alternatively, you could go north and do the Northern Ireland & Atlantic Coast Small-Group tour where you’ll get to experience all of the highlights of Northern Ireland and the Northwest of the Republic of Ireland. Start with this one and finish with the “Taste of Ireland” above, and you’ll end up seeing ALL OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF IRELAND (Northern Ireland, Dublin, and both the Northwest and Southwest sides of the Republic of Ireland). It’s an amazing pairing that you could easily pull off in 10 days - leaving you time to explore Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin - the most magical 2 weeks of your life and the perfect Ireland adventure!

If you’re looking for other adventures in Ireland, we recommend checking out the Highlights of Ireland deluxe tour, or these budget friendly tours that include Bunratty Castle.

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Jenny & Bradley of EatWanderExplore