10 glorious and dubious Glaswegian food delicacies

Scotland is world famous for its natural food larder of soft fruit, meat, fish and peaty water to distil the water of life, and its iconic contributions to global eating and drinking. Occasionally though the Scots are also known for their unhealthy eating habits and doing ghastly things to sheep intestines and fish heads.

Chicken Tikka Masala - invented in Glasgow?

Chicken Tikka Masala – invented in Glasgow?

To be fair a Mediterranean diet is often the last thing you want living in a bracing North European climate. As the Scottish journalist Hardeep Singh Kohli puts it: “when it comes to building ships or mining coal at sub-zero temperatures, you need more than a bowl of Bircher muesli to keep you going.”

1) Chicken tikka masala
One of Glasgow’s great culinary successes are its award-winning curry houses and it’s really no surprise that curry and Glaswegians are so natural a match.

Chicken tikka masala has become one of Britain’s national dishes since it was first invented in the Shish Mahal restaurant in Glasgow. The story goes that a customer complained about the dryness of his chicken tikka, which is chicken marinated in spices and yogurt  and baked in a tandoor oven. In response the chef threw together a sauce with spices, coconut cream, cream and Campbell’s tomato soup. When the customer congratulated the chef on such a delicious dish a new British national dish was born.

Like being host to the first international football fixture Glasgow seems strangely coy about the triumph of inventing Britain’s number one dish, possibly because the origins of chicken tikka masala are disputed.  An attempt by Glaswegian politicians to attain EU origin protection for chicken tikka massala came to nothing, possibly because outraged Indian and London chefs and historians claimed it for their cities and restaurants. No-one really knows where it comes from and nor does help that there is no definitive version of the curry, which some would argue is its great strength and when cooked well is rich and delicious.

2) Pakora
When Glasgwegian exiles go misty-eyed about the ‘dear, green place’ chances are that they are thinking about this spicy, deep-fried snack. Never mind that this snack is found across most of south Asia: Glaswegians are convinced it is their midnight post-pub snack to see them home, and less sophisticated cities like London just don’t offer it. What further outrages Glaswegians is that often they are promised pakora and served onion bhajjis. To Glaswegians onion bhajjis are not pakora, to the rest of the pakora eating world they are.

Glaswegians have gone to town with pakora and they locally cook it with haggis, venison, and salmon. It’s delicious and if I am out for the night I am only let back in to the flat if I have a bag of pakora or salt ‘n’ chilli chips (see below) as an offering to the ladies of the flat, including the greyhound.

3) Roll and fritter
The fritter roll is basically one huge deep-fried chip shoved in a roll and laced with with salt and vinegar. There are times when the crispness of the potato fritter and the mingling of the salt and vinegar with the soft potato inside is divine. There are other times when it feels like mushy, soggy potato served with inedible grit in a rubbish floury roll. Either conclusion is not necessarily dependent on the sobriety of the eater. Approach with caution – over-eagerness to bite into a roll and fritter can cause the roof of your mouth to be burnt off just in time for the salt and vinegar to flood in.

4) Salt ‘n’ chilli chips
There is a local Chinese takeaway called the Lemon Tree on Great Western Road which serves the best chips, no question. Crisp and with overtones of chilli, soya sauce and unknown aromatic Chinese flavourings they are superb.

5) Macaroni Cheese Pie
Only in Scotland would you take a bland, white comfort food dish of 1970s nature, go that extra culinary mile and wrap pastry round it. But that’s exactly what they did with the Macaroni Cheese Pie. It tastes exactly like you think it would.

6) Scotch pie
The scotch pie is mutton spiced with pepper and can be served with Bovril or brown sauce, especially at football matches and other outdoor events. Pubs often hand them out for free at half time for key football matches. For some this is still not enough and they eat it in a buttered white roll.

7) Potato scone (tattie scone)
Potato scones are delicious served with a fried breakfast and are a healthier alternative, no wait seriously, to the equally delicious English delicacy of fried bread.  Chips or hash browns are modern fads and should not grace the breakfast table of a British gentleman.

8) The Lorne (Square) Sausage
Described as ‘weird’ in a Japanese tourist guide book this sausage is named after a Scottish comedian called Tommy Lorne . It’s a sort of square, pink square gristled sausage. It’s pure crap. For god sake go for the links (normal, English sausage) if it is on offer.

Glasgow Salad: a healthy lunch after a Scottish breakfast

Glasgow Salad: a healthy lunch after a Scottish breakfast

9) The Glasgow Salad
Glaswegians are very open to ethnic food and the Glasgow salad is a representative gathering of the most unhealthiest delicacies of every ethnic cuisine embraced by Glaswegians. The Glasgow Salad (really more commonly known as a munchie box) is the contents of a box that typically includes kebab meat, fried chicken, pizza, chicken tikka, onion rings, pakora, naan bread, garlic bread, coleslaw, chips other fast foods and sauces. It is exceptionally unhealthy and a badge of rebellious honour for those wishing to stick two fingers to the PC health food brigade.

10) Chips and cheese
My brother-in-law, a young Twiddles Le Tache introduced me to chips and cheese when tuturing me in the ways of eating and drinking Glasgow-style. I rang him once as an eager pupil keen to impress my teacher.

“Twiddles I am a little drunk and I am eating chips and cheese.”

“Good man. You’re learning well sir.”

“I’ve added mayonnaise to it.”

Ominous silence. A squeak.

“That’s right mayonannise.” I faltered. “Well ever since Belgium…”

“You don’t add mayonnaise to chips and cheese. It’s not natural man.”

“Oh. So should I be eating it with salad?”

“Salad!! SALAD!! Bloody heathen!” he thundered down the phone. He sounded like he was in genuine pain. “Dear god you. You people come up here and you think…”

“Don’t worry. I made a salad dressing to go with the salad and a nice chutney for the cheese. I’ve pimped my chips and cheese and it’s delicious. Twiddles? Hello?”

There was a noise of something being repeatedly hit, a strange whimpering and the line went dead.

“We’re going to deep-fry your croissants…”

The Tartan Army chant threats to their opposing number about how they are going to deep-fry their national dish. This is partly because of the popularity of deep-fried fish, sausages and pizzas and partly because of the deep-fried mars bar which was invented in a chippie near Aberdeen.

Deep-fried mars bars - the national dish created by the British tabloids

Deep-fried mars bars – the national dish created by the British tabloids

The deep-fried mars bar was never a national Scottish dish but, nonetheless both the Scottish and English tabloid media featured it and in a classic mediascape shaping of reality Scottish chippies started selling it to curious tourists and Scots who were previously ignorant that this was their national dish.

Since then countries around the world have started frying their favourite local chocolate bars, chippies serve deep-fried crème eggs to celebrate Easter and chefs have served it in top restaurants as ironic cooking.

It also seems to have unleashed a sort of race to the flatline to see who can serve up the most unhealthiest, heart-stopping pudding. According to the Telegraph chefs at The Fiddler’s Elbow in Edinburgh created a dessert made from frozen balls of butter deep-fried with Irn Bru batter and served with Irn Bru ice cream and coulis. For a more potent version, called Braveheart Butter Bombs, a variation with whisky batter is also available.

One wonders if savvy marketing is the real triumph here, or whether a joke is on the journalist.

For a more sober and serious take on Scotland unhealthy eating habits read Hardeep Singh Kohli’s article.

Coming next: German beer, ginger beer, the best gin in the world and the infamous Irn Bru. Glasgow serves up some of the best drinks in the world.

If you liked this article please donate a little to my Oxfam charity fundraising page.

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32 thoughts on “10 glorious and dubious Glaswegian food delicacies

  1. I’ve lived in Scotland for 3 years, and you have opened my eyes to the delights still awaiting me. Haggis Supper at the chippie is as far as I’ve ventured, though I am a fan of onion bhajis (under that name).

    My forthcoming heart attack has your name on it.

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    • Thanks for your comment poetmcgonagall. Of course I am being a bit unfair looking at the deep-fried stuff when you have sublime Scottish dishes like Arbroath smokies, Clootie Dumpling, cranachan and Cullen Skink. But it was a just a look at Glaswegian food.

      That also reminds me that one of the best bries I ever tasted was Scottish. Yet more things to try out to stoke the heart attack!

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    • Thanks for the kind words Scottish Vision. If you point me in the direction of where to find good square sausage I will give it another go, retract my comment and eat humble pie for the square sausage aficionados!
      I spend quite a bit of time in Ludlow, Shropshire where they make the best sausages in the world (Tyrell even make crisps with them as a flavour) so it’s probably the English side of me being biased on this.

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  2. My ex-pat Glaswegian husband makes his own pakoras now! Agree totally on no 8. Lorne is vile. We can get quite good Scotch pies in Newcastle but every time we go north we put together a first aid box of Fruit pudding, white pudding, black pudding, scotch pies and smokies. We can usually ration them until the next first aid delivery!
    (sorry for duplicate post, first post had my old blog link 🙂 )

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    • Love that idea of a first aid box skybluepinkish. I would add potato scones in here. The Scots smoking their fish is one of the best things about their cuisine. Arbroath, smoked salmon, etc etc – marvellous stuff!

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  3. We make our own tattie scones. Also proper stovies, not that arty farty stuff. Much as I love The Chip I once had their stovies and was unsure if there were any potatoes in them at all! Husband is a salmon fisherman. In the days when salmon was plentiful I got to the stage where if I saw another salmon again I would scream. We used to drop our fish off at the smokers at Dunkeld and they would send it on to us. The first year I had to buy smoked salmon I realised how lucky I had been.

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    • You were lucky! Wild salmon locally smoked – excellent but shows much too much of a good thing spoils it. I think I know the Dunkeld smokers you are talking about – right off the main road, on the left up the hill?.

      I once did a bit of home smoking in a wok. Made a tin foil tray, bunged in some lapsang souchong tea leaves and brown sugar, wire rack over that, salmon or trout on rack, wok lid on and bung on low heat for a while. It was actually rather good, not as good the professionals but I was pretty pleased with it.

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  4. Well, what can I say! – looks delicious but not sure the diet is good for ya! I would enjoy fresh Scottish Salmon at any time, wish you could send some my way. Eve

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  5. What a collection! I was in Glasgow in 2007, but clearly I missed out on a lot of important eating. I’ll have to go back! And thanks for stopping by lorinotes.wordpress. com–

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  6. I need to try the Scottish pie and those sausages. Ha! I always knew that we Indians did not invent tikka masala!! This is not an Indian thing at all

    But, be nice! Pakora? That is so very Indian!! And, is not a bhajji at all!

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    • Oh I know Rajiv – I remember eating pakora on a train in India years before I came to Glasgow. I must admit I was surprised to read that a bhajji is considered to be pakora so I do stand to be corrected. Is tikka masala known at all in India? Or known by a different name?

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      • Well, we do eat tikka masala once in a way. But, in general, we never order it. Why would we spoil a tikka by putting it into a masala gravy? A tikka, by definition, is dry.

        A bhajji may be a variant of a pakora. Not a pakora in the strictest sense. A first cousin, if i may

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  7. I love Pakora and can’t find it anywhere in Wales in a restaurant…as you say, usually onion bhajis are served up instead…the search continues. Ah, your post was a checklist of all the foods I miss (nostalgically) about Glasgow, except the Lorne sausage, although I had a girlfriend who made me go out and buy it for her breakfast as she considered it a hangover cure….that and some glugs of “ginger” (Irn Bru, to the non-weegie of course). How about the regional differences in Scotland itself, though- the Aberdeen “rowie”, for instance, a kind of salty, fatty crosissant like an eccles cake without the cake bit 🙂 Thanks for a super read as always, Alex.

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    • Yup – local standard hangover cure is glugging down Irn Bru and potato scone rolls (for the veggies in my family). I think I tried a rowie and it didn’t go down well. Far too salty! Thanks for the kind comments as always Iain.

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  8. Hah! I was looking for you! But first, why do all of you Englishmen and Scotsmen love chicken tikka masala? We hardly ever eat it in India!

    Second… and this is why I was looking for you – why don’t you write about some of the superb bands and musicians you have in Scotland? I discovered one called Runrig recently, and I know of some more

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    • Hi Rajiv – we love it because we (think) we invented it, it’s a little unhealthy and it warms us up on poor weather days! There is great music in Scotland and I probably would write about it if I had more time for blogging but alas I don’t. Also I suspect there will be music bloggers out there who know more than I do about it. If you want some recommendations let me know! Been enjoying your photography on your blog!

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