The food our New to the Parish community miss the most
Food Month: People living here miss rice and beans, tahchin and real Mexican tacos
The Italian dish seppia con piselli (cuttlefish with peas): “It tastes like the sea and is just delicious”
Pinto beans and rice, a Brazilian staple. Photograph: iStock
Iranian tahchin with rice, chicken and yoghurt. Photograph: Getty
Tacos and tamales. Photograph: iStock
For Carlinhos Cruz, nothing tastes quite as good as a well-prepared dish of rice and beans. When the Brazilian musician arrived in Ireland five years ago, he would meet up with Brazilian friends to buy Tesco value kidney beans and cook them with rice.
“We found a cheap, almost satisfactory replacement but now there are Brazilian shops which sell our beans and even our rice, Tio João being the favourite,” he says.
“Rice and beans sounds simple and in fact it is: brown pinto beans cooked in a pressure cooker with salt, onion, garlic and bay leaves served along with rice. In Brazil, most people eat this dish every day. My father still insists that if there aren’t rice and beans, then it’s not a real meal.
“I love making rice and beans for non-Brazilian friends and sharing a little bit of my culture with them but nothing tastes like the rice and beans made by my mum or my sisters in my kitchen at home in Brazil.”
Parsa Ghaffari desperately misses tahchin, a traditional Iranian dish he used to eat growing up in Tehran.
The Dublin-based tech entrepreneur describes his favourite food as “an edible piece of art” and “the jewel of Persian dishes”.
“It’s an amazing blend of rice (crispy and soft), eggs, butter, saffron, pistachio and beriberi fruit which are made into a cake-like shape that practically melts in your mouth.
“Due to its sweet and sour flavours and rice base, tahchin is often eaten together with chicken or a stew like Ghormeh Sabzi or Khoresht Gheymeh.”
Ghaffari struggles to find ready-made tahchin in Irish food shops but says his partner has successfully recreated it in their kitchen.
“A week-long trip to Tehran won’t cost more than €1,000 from Ireland, and that’s inclusive of having tahchin at the grand bazaar on every day of your visit. Tahchin is just amazing, and the world needs to know,” Ghaffari says.
“The bottom of the pit is lined with heated stones, the food is covered with palm fronds, banana leaves or aluminium foil and then laid over the stones. The whole pit is then covered with earth and the food is slow-cooked for 3-4 hours,” she says.
Lovos are used for special occasions when friends, family and neighbours gather together to dig up the hole and prepare the food, says Arun.
“The food that comes out is delicately smoky and nothing really compares to it. We would put fish, meat, vegetables, including root vegetables like taro and cassava, into the lovo,” she says.
Her family also often prepared a dish called palusami in the lovo which consists of taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and spiced with chillies and garlic.
“I miss the whole ritual of it, not just the food, but the getting-together of people and the sharing of beautiful food.”
Growing up in San Francisco in a Spanish-speaking household surrounded by Mexican neighbours, Beatriz Ageno always had access to tasty tacos and tamales.
“I miss real Mexican food from the Mission district of San Francisco. The fast food burrito places here, although some are very tasty, miss the mark,” she says.
“Mexican food restaurants have become so popular in Dublin, but none of it really tastes like the authentic tacos and tamales that you buy from trucks and carts in the city. “
Ageno also misses her family’s summer barbecues in the Californian sunshine.
“My parents’ house has a big back yard and a pool and they always put on the best BBQs with tons of food. I guess it’s the whole experience that I miss,” she says.
Jacopo Villani’s work in the development sector has brought him around the world – from Ethiopia to Honduras, Colombia to London – ending up in the west of Ireland last year. However, his culinary love lies in the city of Pesaro on the Adriatic coast where he grew up eating seppia con piselli which translates as cuttlefish with peas.
“The dish is normally a second course that is very common all over Italy, ” says the Italian aid worker. “The cuttlefish is very tender because it is cooked for over an hour in tomato sauce. It tastes like the sea and is just delicious.”
Despite the wide variety of seafood available in Galway, Villani has struggled to find fresh cuttlefish.
“In my local fish shop I once found fresh squid, which is a good substitute, although not quite the same. Our families send us big boxes every two or three months full of cheeses, ham, prosciutto, olives, olive oil, pasta, but they could never send cuttlefish,” he says.
Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan identifies as a “third-culture kid”, a child raised outside their parents’ home culture. Mohan spent the first few years of her life in India before moving with her mother to Sweden and then Turkey. She studied in the UK and has lived in Dublin since 2012.
“Having no single sense of national identity and a very small family means that the food that carries significance for me is tied to people and memories rather than a single country’s cuisine. My favourite dish is the one that is tied to my mother who I only get to see three times a year at the most. She used to live in Italy and makes the best carbonara I have ever tasted.”
Mohan has particularly fond memories of the teen years she spent living in Turkey.
“Whenever I think of Turkish food I think of iskender, which is high quality kebab meat on a bed of butter-soaked bread covered in rich tomato sauce with a side of homemade yoghurt, drizzled with sizzling butter straight from a pan. My memories of sharing this meal with my best friends in a restaurant is the closest feeling I have to a big family dinner.”
Mohan also enjoys eating a noodle soup dish called kauk-swe which her Burmese grandmother used to make. “When you move cities and countries often, sometimes it takes a dish to to tie all those communities separated by distance together.”
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections. We will also have reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/foodmonth