Haggis does not command a lot of respect in the food world. Its
primary uses seem to be frightening children, acting as a
conversation piece and Scotch sponge at (Robert) Burns Suppers, and
perpetuating the tired old idea that there's no good cookery to be
found in the British Isles. And to be fair, its traditional
description does not paint a pretty picture: a pudding of "sheep's
pluck" (lungs, liver and heart) mixed with oats, onions, spices and
encased in a sheep's stomach. On a recent trip to
Edinburgh, I decided to taste for myself what all the fuss was
And the verdict: not ghastly at all. It's hearty, generally
heavy on the oats, and at worst, not particularly remarkable. Lamb
lungs are no longer in the equation these days, and most of the
renditions my travelling companions and I encountered were not
stuffed in a sheep's stomach, but encased more like sausage. The
first haggis we confronted at The Royal
Macgregor on the Royal Mile was beginner friendly.
Though traditional in title: "haggis, neeps and tatties," this
version was noticeably upscale. Of the vertical food variety, it
consisted of haggis topped with billowy mashed potatoes, "bashed"
turnip with red onion and rosemary gravy. All in all, a decidedly
unscary, pleasant meal with complex texture.
Truly, this was not the haggis of the people, though it was a
good way to ease ourselves into the idea. The next morning, we
sampled a more conventional haggis alongside our traditional
Scottish breakfasts. It fit right in with the morning meal. We were
surprised at the amount of oats, rendering it a hearty start to the
day, like a meaty side of granola - not particularly flavorful, but
relatively inoffensive. There was more haggis to be had, however.
We wandered down the Leith Walk to The
Mermaid, a fish and chips takeout known for its prowess with a
deep fryer. One particular item in the glass case caught our
attention: deep-fried haggis. This substantial hunk o' haggis is
apparently one of their top selling items. "Brown sauce," one of
our group's most beloved discoveries on this trip, went a long way
towards helping out the haggis this time. It must be noted that The
Mermaid's fish and chips were battered and fried to perfection.
After sampling traditional Scottish cuisine for a multiple meals
in a row, our tastebuds eventually required a change-up. So we ate
what any sensible UK tourist would: Indian food.