The fry-up is such a traditionally British dish that variations of the breakfast meal can be found in all corner of the UK. The base of the full Welsh, full English, full Scottish and Ulster Fry is composed of bacon, eggs and sausages, but each region adds variations that create a unique plate. Of all of these the Ulster Fry stands out as being the best complement of tangy bread and tasty protein with a bit of sweetness from the fried tomatoes.
It’s really the bread that makes or breaks a good Ulster Fry and a fabulous soda farl fried crisp and golden is so good it’s almost worth forgoing the bacon for another slice. Almost. The potato bread, also deliciously fried, is a chewy counterpoint to the soft eggs and is definitely required to soak up all the juiciness at the end of the meal. Bacon and sausage – hard to go wrong there – and a dollop of black and white pudding round out the meal with just a bit of fried tomato as a nod to the day’s vegetable allotment.
André Luís, flickr.com/photos/andr3/
Different regions have (somewhat controversial) additions and your breakfast may come with mushrooms, beans, chips or (horrors!) hash browns. Even the black and white pudding that has come to be considered appropriate by most is still shunned by hard core traditionalists that claim the puddings are a southern Irish tradition and don’t belong in a Northern Irish breakfast.
Now that you’re armed with an understanding of what a good Ulster Fry should be, open your mind to trying whatever style your establishment provides. You may not want the beans with your breakfast but try to accept that it’s all part of the evolution of the perfect meal.
When dining well north your fry-up may come with a bowl of porridge lightly flavoured with just a dash of salt and sugar. Although it’s probably good for you that way, you might want to dress it up a bit with a bit of cream and brown sugar. Don’t be surprised if your weekend porridge is served with a shot of Bushmills stirred in – weekends are for relaxing, right?
Another northern addition might be a vegetable roll ...which is curiously made of beef. Sure it has some carrots and onions in it, but your meat, er, vegetable roll is a bit of an odd addition to an otherwise all-pork breakfast.
When staying at a B&B you are at the mercy of your host and have few (polite) options when your breakfast is delivered. On the plus side, however, the farl is often freshly made and your meal is generally more substantial that what you will find in a restaurant.
Taverns and pubs are another spot to look for a good Ulster Fry and the best are the bars frequented by the locals. Much like the Ploughman’s lunch, a good fry is meant to fill the workingman without emptying his purse. Don’t fear the dimly lit room populated with grimy laborers quaffing Guinness – this is the mark of a promising establishment. Stride in boldly and order your breakfast with a pint, and if it doesn’t suit you then order another pint and enjoy the company.
Restaurants give you the opportunity to be fussy and order your breakfast the way you want it. Resist the urge on your first visit, however, and have your fry-up the way it comes. Maybe it’s a regional variation, or maybe the chef just likes dulse (seaweed), either way it’s a chance to try a new mix. Tea is the expected drink at most breakfast spots but once in a while you’ll find one that suggests a shot of whiskey to wash that soda bread down with. Now this is what vacationing in Northern Ireland is all about!
Are you a die-hard fan of Ulster Fry?
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