Culinary Adventures in Ireland: Spice Bag Edition.

“Do you want to have a spice bag?”

That was the question my classmate posed to me before we headed to Limerick on Ice for a bout of ice-skating.  (Try singing it to the tune of “Do you want to build a snowman….”)

My first thought upon being thrown this question was: I don’t keep my spices in bags?

And even if I did, who goes around offering other people bags for putting their spices in? It sounds like the main plot for a Colonel Sanders-inspired TV series, where the primary and secondary characters jet around the world with spice bags, looking to fill them up with the Colonel’s eleven secret herbs and spices and all the magic that goes into fried chicken.

Of course, I soon learned that a spice bag is a quintessential Irish take-away treat, to be found in most Chinese takeaways and chippers across the country.

It’s definitely not a Chinese dish. As someone who’s worked in many a Chinese restaurant as an overworked line-cook and who grew up eating Chinese food, I know that much.

Just like how General Tso’s and Orange Chicken are American gastronomical concoctions inspired by Chinese cuisine, so too does the Spice Bag draw inspiration from the same wellspring, to come up with a true Irish culinary original. I mean, it has chips in it, so…

Being an adventurous eater – I’ve taken on hakarl (Icelandic fermented shark) and surströmming (Swedish fermented herring) – I was more than willing to give the Spice Bag a go. The thought of a spice bag held no fear for me. I mean, after finding out what’s inside one, I had a gastronomical itch I just had to scratch.

So, there I was, cautiously inspecting a spice bag.

Chips. Of course. Check.
Crispy Chicken. Check.
Red and Green Peppers. Check.
Chili Peppers. Check.
Onions. Check.
Mysterious Spice, as one would expect given that it is called a spice bag. Check. (by the way, that could well be a fitting name for a sixth Spice Girl).  

The first thought that pops into my head is:  this can’t be all that healthy now, can it?

After that smidgen of a thought fluttered away, I decided to stop thinking about what was in front of me and just go for it. With gusto.

Nom nom nom.

The verdict?

Not bad. It might have gone down better with a beer. (But we were going ice-skating, and mixing those two things together – beer with ice-skating – doesn’t sound like a very productive, responsible adult thing to do).  I was hoping it would be spicy, but it didn’t even register as mild for me.

It was decent. But I’m not sure how it is anything more than a bag of chips with a bit of spice and chicken and peppers thrown in for good measure.

But what do I know.
Maybe I’m a culinary philistine.
Maybe I wasn’t that hungry that day.

Or maybe I just need to find myself in a point in space and time where I’m digging into a really mind-blowing, worldview-changing spice bag.

Timothy

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