H A G G I S….. the name of it irks me a little. This is what I call extreme foods, either you hate it or you love it. Having tried it multiple times, I can say that its really an acquired taste, just like Whisky, except the love for haggis really fluctuates a little more. For whisky, I think it could be represented with a linear upward sloping y=mx +c (??? O’level students help me out!) graph but for haggis, its a sin graph, somewhat, with peaks and troughs.
But nevertheless, every trip to Scotland warrants a taste of Haggis once again. Not only does it help me to reminisce the many times I’ve tried and loved/hated it, but also gives me another chance to fall in love with it again.
This time, we’re at Howies. Established since 1990, Howies has 2 branches in Edinburgh. One of them is along Victoria Street, which brings you to old Edinburgh town, or Grassmarket, and the other is near Calton Hill, where the Nelson Monument is at. The one at Calton Hill is slightly bigger I think. But we went to the one at Victoria Street instead.
And yes, Haggis is a MUST-TRY, especially for my table of friends who have yet to taste the essence of Scotland yet.
So what is Haggis? Haggis is a savoury, squishy, mushy pudding made up of sheep’s inerts. Baa-ahhhhhhhh~~~~ So you’ll be eating mashed up hearts, livers, lungs + minced onion, suet, salt, stock that are placed in an artificial casing, instead of traditionally, an animal’s stomach.
Although its looks isn’s appealing immediately, you’ll probably fall in love with it if you like the nutty texture and savoury, unforgettable flavour.
The Haggis (£5.95) at Howies came with two other lumps (for a lack of a better word) of stuff. Lump 1 is mashed up carrots in quite a lot of sugar I believe, as it is really sweet, but fresh! Love it. Lump 2 is mash potatoes, made the restaurant way, the one with salted butter mixed into it. I heard that to make really good mashed potatoes, you steam the potato and not boil it. Read more here, for 101: How to make mashed potatoes the right way. And of course Lump 3 is the HAGGIS…. muahahhaha. See that brown lump of mysterious looking, horrifying, i-dont-know-what-im-eating thing? Thats all the whatever inerts you can think of. all-in-one.
This 5678th time I’ve tried Haggis tells me that I don’t like it that much, still. Perhaps I need to give it 10 tries or more to love it once again. (再说一次我爱你, does this song sound familiar to some?) This haggis is a little different from the others I’ve tried. The others usually come in a form of a rice cake, like this.
Credits to : lancashirehaggis.co.uk/haggis/ for the photo! thanks.
I personally think that the cake-like form is less scary than the lumpy form served at Howies. It makes it more presentable to try.
Apart from Haggis, of course a table of 4 deserves more than one starter. Accompanying the Haggis is a plate of calamari, served with this sour sauce probably made of some lemon essence, sugar and vinegar. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside = calamari @ Howies. Not a bad choice.
And Skinny fries, £3. I thought it was the other kind of Skinny Fries, this kind!!!! but apparently not…..
photo credits to: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/thin-fries.html
It turns out that their skinny fries are the McDonald’s kind instead, which is nothing special, to be honest. A little truffle would be just nice. Have you heard of the saying that.. girls always order truffle fries, wherever they go? And I heard that this is something that guys don’t understand!!!
Starters aside… time for the mains. Feeling famished, I really looked forward to their mains. Yet, I’ve to say that Howies seem to serve better lunch than dinner. Nevertheless, hungry me jumped on any chance to eat something, or anything edible.
We asked for the mains to be served together so we could all dig in at the same time! Starters came first, but of course, you can choose to have starters and mains together!
This is… the Scottish chicken breast with tarragon, wild & chestnut mushrooms served with garlic green beans, crushed new potatoes & pan jus. This is gluten free, for those with dietary preferences. “Pan jus” refers to this I believe “meat dishes prepared or served together with a light gravy made from the juices given off by the meat as it is cooked”, well at least it tastes like what this description says about jus.
The chicken was rather tender and the mushroom was pretty fresh! Prolly because there was jus, so the dish was a little oily, but still alright! The potatoes do not taste like mashed ones, which was great, since we already had some mashed ones as starters. These crushed potatoes come in chunks packed together instead. This gives it a better texture and makes it more chewy.
Our second mains was spaghetti with chargrilled asparagus, confit garlic, rocket, crispy breadcrumbs, extra virgin olive oil (V) & aged parmesan (Add crispy prosciutto for £1, which we didn’t add) I love how spaghetti can be made into an Asian-like dish sometimes. Howies did that just right. This plate tastes nothing like spaghetti. It’s more like a plate of fried noodles from local hawker centers in Singapore… Hokkien mee, is the closest description I have.
The portion of asparagus & cheese was generous, great for veg & cheese lovers… Ah I miss CHEESE, reminds me of the awesome plate of Wisconsin cheese I had that day. Anyhow, I think the extra dose of virgin olive oil with the handsome amount of garlic used was the main thing that made this dish extra Asian-like, since fried noodles in Asia are almost always oily.
The last main dish of the day was the one I looked forward to the most but…. Surprisingly the most disappointing one as well. Salmon has never really gone wrong in Edinburgh actually but this time round it somehow has? Weird.
So this….Steamed fillet of Shetland salmon with braised fennel, samphire & salsa verde is gluten free and dairy free (I like how the menu tells you what’s GF & DF. Full menu here for the Victoria Steet branch).
Probably cos this isn’t the typical pan fried salmon that comes with either mash or asparagus, it just does not seem to fit well with the mental image of what I perceive salmon to be.
And perhaps I’m right to say that it does look rather substandard as well. Check this out:
I think the salsa verde + fennel taste was extremely overpowering. It is like a small herb-bomb that explodes in your mouth once you chew on those green stuff up there. An acquired taste perhaps. And it almost seemed like that the salmon was steamed in separation from the salsa verde & other greens, cos the salmon itself tastes nothing like herbs. Weird no?
Last thing about Howies. It opens till late. Hurray! But it closes at 230-530 after lunch and before dinner. So grab your chance to eat it before it 230! Lunch better, I swear!
Love Edinburgh still. Xoxo.