Haggis, the most feared culinary dish to escape the kitchens of the Scottish highlands. Described in whispers as the “innards” of a sheep, stewed in its own stomach, puts only the most adventurous diners to the test to taste this seemingly sinister dish. Now, thanks to culinary globetrotting, haggis has gone mainstream and is creeping into your favourite foods with fresh and recognizable dishes that appeal to the North American palate.
To North Americans haggis remains a curiosity. The idea of a sheepʼs lungs, heart, liver, oats, spices and suet, wrapped in a sheepʼs stomach probably doesnʼt sound too appetizing to the uninitiated. The traditional haggis, served on Robert Burns Day, is most recognizable to the general public. A grey mass of meat stuffed to the brim, surrounded by pomp and circumstance as it is paraded into the room by pipers and poets. What most people donʼt realize is that haggis is foremost a sausage made with the same casing as your favourite breakfast food. In reality, haggis is a three hundred year old hot dog. If youʼre still cringing, Google your favourite ballpark frank and you may recognize similarities between the ingredients.
Despite its unfortunate reputation of evoking repulsion from those whoʼve never tried it, many cultures are starting to embrace its flavors and are incorporating them into their local dishes. “People want to try it,” says Chef Michael Dotson of Martins West Gastropub in Redwood City, California of his popular haggis corn dog. “Everyone loves a corn dog, so it offers a buffer that everyone likes and makes it approachable. A small amount of haggis deep fried on a stick is a food people can relate to and are willing to try.”
Chef John Higgins, Director of the George Brown Cooking School, has been developing new recipes with haggis since the beginning of his career. The Glaswegian chefʼs appreciation for haggis comes naturally as he recognizes that all good foods come from an open mind when it comes to cooking. His signature dish of Glaswegian spring rolls complimented with smoked salmon and the Italian inspired spinach and ricotta ravioli with haggis whisky sauce gives credence to the fact that haggis is truly multicultural.
Describing his food simply as “fusion confusion,” Chef Higgins continues to try new recipes that maintain the traditional composition of the dish, while keeping it accessible to the masses. Heʼs currently working on developing a haggis dessert for Burns Night 2013, a rich, caramelized and savory haggis cheesecake that will challenge perceptions for those with a sweet tooth and provide a worthy compliment to a gastronomically robust meal.
From Mexicoʼs haggis nachos to Indiaʼs haggis curry and Chinaʼs haggis wonton soup, this simple Scottish dish has burst past its borders and left tradition in its wake. Burns nights are popping up in unexpected places all over the world, including a three day festival in Moscow and Vancouverʼs Gung Haggis Fat Choy, a combined celebration of the Chinese New Year and Robert Burns Day. Thanks to globalization, haggis has become easily accessible to other cultures, turning familiar foods into unlimited fusion fantasies.
Recognition, accessibility and an open culinary mind provides the perfect opportunity to unite cultures through the fusion of foods. Mixing traditional North American cuisine with a taste of the exotic bridges two culinary worlds while breaking stereotypes thus opening a new world of flavor from a simple dish.