Before visiting the U.K. for the first time in the early '90s, I knew bangers were sausages and rashers were slices of bacon. Crisps were chips and chips were fries. I had the essentials down because. let's be honest, there wasn't much else a 10-year-old needed to know.
But when I returned later in life, navigating menus wasn't as easy as it had been with my childhood palate. I learned quickly that puddings were sometimes savory and sometimes sweet, but never actually the texture of American pudding. Pudding is also just a term for dessert. Tea is a hot drink, but also regional slang for the evening meal. Pies were traditionally savory, and sometimes topped with mashed potatoes instead of pastry. While living in England, I learned to ask for mince beef instead of ground beef, but it took me a while to realize mincemeat was not actually meat at all.
I was confused for a long time.
And more often than not, the names of traditional dishes threw me off completely. If you had asked me to guess what Spotted Dick was, I would have never said it was a currant-studded dessert. I didn't order Welsh Rarebit because I thought it was rabbit. I'd been missing out on cheesy bread for years!
9 Weird British Dishes You Need to Try
As they say, the more you know! And now I do. Here are my top nine weird (and wonderful) British delicacies you need to try sometime in your life. Don't miss out because you don't understand the name.
1. Scotch Egg
A hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried to perfection, the Scotch egg makes for a great snack, and can be enjoyed hot or cold. It seems to be popping up on menus across the U.S., but I wish we didn't have to frequent a hipster bar to get one.
2. Full English Breakfast
A full English refers to eggs, sausage, back bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, hash browns, toast, and half a tomato, usually served with brown sauce or ketchup. Depending on the region, the full breakfast varies slightly, with additions like white and black pudding, bubble and squeak, and potato cakes.
3. Black Pudding
This is not a pudding. It's a blood sausage, usually boiled, fried, or grilled. Historically served with breakfast, black pudding is rising in popularity, finding its way into posh restaurants and cafes. When I finally tried it, I was pleasantly surprised how the salty flavor complements eggs and potatoes especially.
4. Bubble and Squeak
The most adorable name for one of the most unattractive (but tasty) dishes: shallow-fried vegetable leftovers, usually mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. It's popular after a big Sunday roast or the day after Christmas, and commonly served as part of a full breakfast. (In Scotland, it's called Rumpledethumps. That's a cute name too, and they add cheese.)
5. Mushy Peas
A well-known accompaniment to fish and chips, these are exactly what they sound like: smashed or cooked-down peas made into a paste similar to the texture of refried beans. Add salt and pepper, scoop onto a piece of beer-battered cod, and that's what Britain tastes like to me. (It's a good thing.)
6. Chip Butty
Some restaurants are known to serve sandwiches with french fries added in, but a sandwich filled with only fries? That's comfort food in Britain. The chip butty is just two pieces of white bread, butter, and a handful of thick-cut fries (chips, as they call them).
7. Christmas Pudding
In the U.K., Christmas pudding is a holiday tradition. Many families have their own variations, with the key ingredients being alcohol-soaked fruit and spices. The dessert is steamed for hours before being served with cream or brandy butter.
8. Mince Pies
Way back in the day, these seasonal treats actually had meat mixed in with the dried fruits and spices, but nowadays these are strictly sweet mini pies. They're equally delicious served warm or at room temperature, with tea or mulled wine.
9. Yorkshire Pudding
I've saved the best pudding for last, but it isn't a dessert. Originating in the Yorkshire region of England, these popovers are tastiest when made with beef drippings and covered in gravy. No Sunday roast is complete without one, or three.
Have you tried one of these dishes before? Let us know in the comments!