An international student’s guide to classic British dishes

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Before coming to the UK, I knew very little about British food.

I distinctly remember asking my friends what ‘bubble and squeak’ was in a restaurant and receiving disturbed looks from everyone - even the neighbouring tables.

But now I’ve been here a couple of years, I can give my fellow international students a heads up on some of the best known dishes - the classics.

So read on – whether to whet your appetite, or just help you seem more knowledgeable at dinner.

 

1) Full English breakfast 

full english

Photo source: BBC Food

 

A hearty weekend feast of bacon, eggs (scrambled, poached or fried), tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, hash browns, beans, and sausages.

Every place has a slightly different take on this classic dish (you can also get Scottish, Irish and Welsh variations), but I’m yet to find a place that does it wrong.

It’s also touted as the best hangover cure after a heavy night out (just look at the number of broke, bleary-eyed students shovelling this down in Spoons). 

 

2) Fish ‘n’ chips

fish n chips

Photo source: Country Life

 

Piping hot, battered and deep-fried fish with crispy chips (fries) and, usually, mushy peas...mmm.

Typically, this is smothered in salt and vinegar, although I break this law by using Sriracha sauce instead (and no, quit it with Tobasco).

Although quite fatty and oily, it’s just what you need on a wintry day.

 

3) Sunday roast

sunday roast

Photo source: Signatures Liverpool

 

A filling meal that consists of:

  • Roasted meat (traditionally beef, but any meat or vegetarian/vegan variation is just as tasty)
  • A variety of seasonal vegetables
  • Roast potatoes
  • Yorkshire pudding (a light and airy, sort of dinner roll/puff pastry crossover i.e. not dessert)
  • Gravy

Because of its family-oriented origins (it was traditionally eaten together on a Sunday after church), I find this dish to be the very definition of wholesome.

 

4) Toad-in-the-hole

toad in the hole

Photo source: BBC Food

 

Sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter, often served with gravy and vegetables. Need I say more?

Once you’re eating it, you’ll forget all about its strange name. 

 

5) Bubble and squeak

bubble and squeak

Photo source: Egg recipes

 

Typically made with leftover vegetables from a roast dinner, fried together in a pan – hence the name, which refers to the sound you’ll hear when cooking this.

It’s mainly made with cabbages and potatoes, but Brussels sprouts, carrots, and other vegetables can be added.

It’s a nice breakfast alternative that’s not as heavy as a Full English. 

 

6) Bangers & mash

bangers and mash

Photo source: BBC Food

 

Sausages and mash potatoes usually served with onion gravy. And by sausages, I mean the really hefty, chunky ones that are bursting with flavour.

More excitingly, the sausages are often regional (e.g. Cumberland sausage). It's a pretty simple dish, usually ordered as quick pub food, but so tasty.

Fun fact: sausages are nicknamed ‘bangers’ because when fried too quickly, their skin bursts with a bang.

 

Bonus: Welsh cakes

welsh cakes

Photo source: Stork

 

Not a dish, per se, but deserving to be mentioned.

These are delicious little cakes with a soft, crumbly interior and dried currants.

They’re fantastic with a cup of English breakfast tea - and some clotted cream, if you’re feeling especially decadent.

I like warming them up and eating as is.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Have a peruse of pub menus and you’ll see a whole lot more.

And don’t be afraid to ask about the dishes before ordering! We’re international students – we’re allowed!

 

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