There's a revolution underway and it involves traditional Welsh food. While the classics will always be there - bara brith, cockles and welsh cakes - new foodie foodie experiences are on the rise in Wales. Here we reveal the essence of traditional Welsh food and then get you up to speed with what's new on the scene.
Talk about Welsh food and most people draw a blank, even if they’re from the UK.
Hard pressed, they’ll come up with leeks (more an emblem than a dish.)
Laverbread (hey, it's something to do with seaweed!)
Or cockles amid the laverbread, harvested from the southern coast around Swansea.
If you're on a roll (ignore the pun,) let's talk about Welsh rarebit, albeit often mislabelled as cheese on toast.
And if they're feeling really fancy, you might hear about juicy lamb and slow-cooked cawl to boot.
Recommended reading: 27 Ways Food and Travel Go Together (Not just for "Foodies")
Well, it's time to start recalibrating the record. And, nothing but dedicated, as a resident in Wales I'm roaming around the countryside in search of good bites to eat.
A cawl crawl in Carmarthen invigorated taste buds and lingual gymnastics at the same time, while a food festival threw in crunchy sugar-coated Welsh cakes, tea-and-raisin bara brith and swathes of cupcakes awash with daffodils and dragons.
But that much I expected.
What was new to me was the gastronomic revolution that’s been quietly gathering pace in Wales.
The truth is that the food scene in Wales... is now cool!
Cawl itself rounds up wild garlic, leeks and welsh mutton and lamb from the Black Mountains, with a few secret ingredients thrown in. It can take all day to cook and occupies a place on the hearth of traditional olde housewives, modern day gastro emporiums and the St David’s Day menu of my former neighbour and travel writer too. Authentic, heartwarming stuff.
Stew? Soup? Casserole? All of the above, mostly at the same time.
One thing’s for sure. It’s pronounced cow-l not call. Now you can boldy go forth and ask for some more!
Flat, crumbly and speckled with raisins, Welsh Cakes seem less cakey than their English counterparts.
As welsh cakes don't really resemble cakes, so laverbread doesn't resemble bread. Part puree, part sludge, this deep green edible seaweed tastes best when, er, combined with something else.
Succulent and slightly sweet, Welsh lamb deserves its widely held reputation as a gourmet dish from this part of the world.
We're back to bread again with this dish - and yet we aren't. The words mean "speckled bread" but this is more of a rich, fruit cake darkened by soaking in tea. It's not too sweet and typically comes sliced with salted butter. Lush.
Cheese on toast this is not. There's more to it than that (albeit, not all that much more :-) )
The topping is based on a cheese sauce, with a dash of mustard and butter and then ingredients as the chef requires. Egg, worcestershire sauce, Brains, Guinness... all have made it into this dish.
Gone are the days when nothing but weak tea and stale scones filled the green-black hills and rugged coasts (well, partially gone.)
No, these days even Londoners manage to break free of their city cage to travel west in search of good Welsh food.
Blasus Deli: Great Deli in the Heart of Carmarthen
Inside, it creates a visual treat before moving on to the edible, combining local specialties like Caerphilly cheese with roast cherry tomato salsa from Italy.
I chose a crayfish baguette and munched it in the shade of a castle. Now that's a welsh way to have lunch.
(Pssst. I think you pronounce it Bl-eye-ss.)
The Forest Arms: Welsh Tapas in A Cosy Stone Pub
Bare stone walls, wooden floorboards, a flaming fire and a welsh tapas gastro twist.
The Forest Arms delights in creating a tapas menu from locally sourced produce. Popcorn cockles in tempura batter with chilli vinegar. Brechfa-honey chorizo. Welsh beef meatballs – and more.
Reach the 6th century village of Brechfa by day and work up an appetite by walking in the countryside nearby.
The Ginhaus: Floor to ceiling with gin (er, and some food)
LLandeilo. People say the Ginhaus stocks over 240 types of gin but the owners are not amused.
It’s nothing like that, they say. “It’s more like 180.”
Wright's Food Emporium
Close to the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Wright's Food Emporium made it to the Observer's foodie hit list and has never looked back.
Part deli, part pantry and part unpretentious cafe, its juicy hot sandwiches feature the crunchiest gherkins, the chunkiest meats and the springiest buns.
I have worked with several partners in Wales as well as travelling under my own steam.
However, throughout, as ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what is the point?
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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