Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Weird Food Wednesdays: Spice Burger

Picture this: one extremely jet-lagged American and his equally exhausted Canadian wife, wandering the unfamiliar streets of Dublin at dusk, searching for the elusive spice burger.

The spice burger, invented in the 1950s by Walsh Family Foods, is described on their website as "a delicious blend of Irish beef, onions, cereals and herbs & spices, coated with a traditional outer crumb". But during June of this year, Walsh Family Foods, the sole manufacturer of the spice burger,
fell victim to the recession and closed its doors! (thanks to our friend Tom for alerting us about the demise of the spice burger)


Spice burger aficionados immediately began a spirited campaign to bring back their beloved Irish treasure, described on the
Save the Spice Burger facebook page as "Ambrosia for the mortal Irish man (and to a lesser extent mortal Irish woman), Walsh's spice burger has proved a satisfying meal to stumble home with after a couple of pints for over 50 years". And after a tremendous outpouring of public support, Walsh Family Foods is back in business and churning out spice burgers once again!

The relaunch of the spice burger was just getting underway when we arrived in Dublin a few weeks ago, making it hard to find, even at the local chippers. We first tried
Leo Burdock's, Dublin's oldest chipper, located in the city center near Christ Church Cathedral.

No spice burger, but great cod & chips (gigantic portion for only € 8.90, don't forget the vinegar!):


Later that night at our hotel, we received a tip (from a complete stranger!) that we should "head south to Camden and Wexford and look for the Italian chippers, for sure they'll have spice burgers". After getting hopelessly lost a couple times (Dublin streets are sometimes hard to navigate because the streets change name every couple blocks) we found ourselves on Camden street (by sheer dumb luck) standing under a neon sign at
Roma II.

Roma II sounded Italian enough for me, plus it was getting dark, so we hurried inside. And YES, they had spice burgers!

We got 2 orders to go (no salt or vinegar) and rushed back to our hotel.

Each order consisted of 2 spice burger patties and 4 pieces of chips, but they wrapped both orders up together:

Crunchy crust with a savory breadcrumb-y interior flavored with lots of dried herbs/spices. Hubby Kris said it reminded him of falafel but with a oily lingering aftertaste (lard?)

I really couldn't detect any beef, which probably explains why the spice burger is often mistaken as being vegetarian.

So the verdict? Not bad, although I can imagine it probably tastes a lot better at 4am on the way home from the pub.

The spice burger has yet to hit the international scene so here's a
recipe you can try at home (from lecraic.com, originally published in the Mirror UK 6.19.09).

But if you're ever in Ireland, make sure you try the real deal - Walsh Family Foods is currently operating with a skeleton crew and a limited production schedule so they still need your support!



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15 comments:

KennyT said...

I think I'll go for the cod and chips instead (even if there's no beef in spice burger), haha

Jenn said...

Hmmm...Interesting. First I've heard of this. I love falafel, so maybe I'll like this also after a few pints of beer. ;-) It definitely looks like pub food.

le craic said...

Glad your quest was successful in the end :) It's a definite favourite of the after pub set.

Heavenly Housewife said...

I always feel like even if something doesn't necessarily live up to expectations, its good that you try it and get it out of your system. Glad you found what you were looking for and got to try it :)... but, you can never go wrong with a good fish and chips.

Phyllis said...

Kenny: Those fish n chips weighed like 10 lbs. Even after we ate all we could! And a lot of people I talked to in Dublin were surprised that the spice burger actually contained beef - it had even fooled some vegetarians over the years!

Jenn: The spice burger is strictly an Irish phenomenon. But I think it may hit the international stage after all this crazy publicity! And the greasiness is perfect after a night of drinking.

le craic: Hello, thanks for visiting! I think the guy behind the counter at the chipper thought we were crazy - he'd never seen someone so enthusiastic about trying a spice burger before. I tend to get obsessed about these kind of things :)

Heavenly Housewife: I was so curious to try it after reading about the "Save the Spice Burger" campaign (all those nostalgic comments - I totally could feel their grief, like if chicken mcnuggets were discontinued). I knew going in that it was the type of food you eat after a pub crawl, so I expected it to be some type of greasy mystery meat. I would definitely eat it again!

OysterCulture said...

I confess to being more enamored with your photo of the fish and chips, which I am CRAVING. I cannot wait to dig into a meal of these. The spice burger is interesting though, will have to report back,

Phyllis said...

OysterCulture: The fish and chips from Leo Burdocks was so huge that hubby and I gave up on eating halfway. And we are good eaters! The cod was really crispy and fresh but I thought it was a bit strange with the skin still on it (never had fish n chips with skin before) but it was still really good. Since Burdocks is a 'take-away' (no seating) we wandered around for a bit until we found an office building close by with some seating/benches outside. Or you could walk to Christchurch or St Patricks and find a bench in the gardens. And the spice burger was definitely fun to try :)

le craic said...

@Phyllis - I admire your determination! Great post and thanks for the link to my blog :)

CheapAppetite said...

Great post. I never heard of the spice burger before But if their fans like it so much that they went out of their ways to safe it, I'd definitely love to try some.. The fish & Chips looks good too.

Jackie at PhamFatale.com said...

I've never heard of this before. I tend to go for the traditional fish and chips more :P

Teanna said...

That is SO interesting - it is like a mystery meat... but without much meat? Haha! I am so glad you were able to find it!!!

5 Star Foodie said...

How did I not hear of a spice burger when I was in Ireland? I'll have to ask my husband if he's had one - he goes quite frequently to Dublin for business. This summer we are entertaining his boss' family here, but perhaps next summer we will go back to Dublin and then we'll be sure to try the spice burger, I'm very curious about it.

Phyllis said...

le craic: no, thank YOU! Your excellent post was the only one I found that includes a recipe for the spice burger (with all the nasty bits too) ;P

Cheap Appetite: Thanks! I just had to try it after finding out that vegetarians are sometimes tempted to eat it :)

Jackie: Yes, it's hard to resist fish n chips, but don't rule out the spice burger!

Teanna: Definitely a mystery, more filler than meat!

5 Star Foodie: The locals found it pretty amusing that I was asking about the spice burger (some refer to it as a 'spicy burger'). I hope the company's still around next summer so you can try it :)

Daily Spud said...

Well done you on securing a spice burger while you were here. It's years since I've eaten one but they really are a bit of an institution and it's pretty much a requirement that you visit the pub for several pints before indulging :) And glad to see that you got to Burdocks, yet another fine Dublin institution. Also known for doing a good line in post-pub trade!

Phyllis said...

Daily Spud: Unfortunately, due to jet lag, we did not follow the protocol of hitting the pub first before trying either spice burgers or Burdocks. But we sure made up for it the following night at O'Donoghues :)