Authentic Scottish Food Goes Far Beyond Haggis — Here’s What You Should Try
We’re sorry to inform you that, no matter how delicious Scottish whisky is, you cannot subsist solely on the adult beverage during a trip to Scotland. But we can share the fun foodie fact that Scotland is hiding some delicacies behind the questionable reputation of being the home of haggis (the much-maligned national dish consisting of sheep or cow liver, heart, and lungs mixed with onion and other spices). You can dine pretty fine in Scotland, whether you’re touring the best restaurants in Edinburgh or hopping around the Highlands’ rustic, homey pubs. No matter your tastes, here are the best foods to put on your Scotland to-eat list.
Scotland has such good cheese that two of them are designated “protected foods” by the European Union. That means they’re guaranteed to be the real deal, locally produced and amazingly delicious foods that stick to the traditional recipes. There’s Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, a mild cheddar with a firm texture. And then there’s traditional Ayrshire Dunlop Cheese, which is similar to a cheddar but has a little bit more moisture. It tends to be nuttier when it’s young and gets sharper the longer it ages. We’d suggest picnicking with a block of both.
Scottish whisky (yes, whisky without the “e”) is the national drink of Scotland and dates back to the 11 century. We suggest doing a whisky tasting or sampling different flights of whisky in order to learn more about which flavors suit your palette (peaty, sweet, smoky, fruity). P.S. You might hear this drink called Scotch in the States, but it’s definitely whisky when you’re in Scotland.
Scottish lobster is actually so beloved that it’s used all the way around the world in some of Japan’s best restaurants. But beware: lobster is lobster. It’s expensive pretty much anywhere it’s sourced.
Fish And Chips
Picking the best fish and chips is a heated debate in Scotland — and in the entire United Kingdom, for that matter. Everyone claims to know the best local spot for the best fried fish accompanied by the perfect chips (the thicker version of what we call fries). In fact, there are numerous award systems to rank the best in the biz every year, including the National Fish & Chips Awards. This year, Scotland’s Low’s Traditional Fish & Chips in Aberdeenshire placed sixth in the U.K.
Scones And Shortbread
The first thing you need to know about Scottish scones is that you don’t pronounce the treats in the way that rhymes with “own.” It’s a scone pronounced “scon” like “on.” But these are nothing like the vaguely dry pastries you get at your corner coffee shop. These scones are served with clotted cream (a smooth, buttery, just-sweet-enough cream) and jam.
Scottish shortbread dates all the way back to the 12th century, and that means there are tons of family recipes being passed down to make the best cookies around. We suggest eating some while on vacation and bringing more home as a souvenir.
Scottish salmon is some of the best in the world, whether you want to eat it raw, sashimi style, or smoked like how the Scots prefer. But like many farmed fish, there are environmental effects of the cultivation of salmon in Scotland. So make sure you’re buying salmon from farms that pass the national environmental standards.
Scottish summers are short but oh-so-sweet. And the traditional Cranachan dessert is just the same. It’s like a parfait, using raspberries, cream, toasted oats and whisky. Honestly, what’s not to love?
Haggis And Black Pudding
You can’t leave Scotland without trying haggis. It’s like going to France and not trying escargot. Just like escargot (snails), haggis might not be to your taste, but it’s worth a shot. The savory pudding is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, turnips (you’ll see them called “neeps” on Scottish menus) and a whisky sauce.
You can also sample haggis in a full Scottish breakfast, where you’ll get a broiled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, sliced ham, sausage (called “bangers”), baked beans, a potato “tattie” (similar to a hash brown) as well as some haggis and black pudding — a sausage made from pork blood. Even if you’re not big on the puddings, your breakfast eggs, ham and potatoes will still help soak up all the Scottish whisky you had the night before.