National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Whether it’s Welsh laverbread or Carmarthen ham, seek out a traditional speciality for a true taste of Wales
A taste of tradition
What comes to mind when you think of Welsh cuisine? More than likely, those foods with a tell-tale ‘Welsh’ in their names, like Welsh rarebit and Welsh cakes. But while these are a good starting point, for visitors looking for a taste of tradition — for dishes with their own sense of place — there’s a much longer list to get stuck into.
The nation’s cuisine is the product of its terrain — its lush, mountainous landscape, ill-suited to large-scale arable farming, but ideal for grazing livestock. It’s this landscape that gave rise to perhaps Wales’s most famous contribution to agriculture: hill sheep farming. One of the world’s most sustainable methods of meat production, it involves leaving the sheep free to roam the hillsides, taming the scrubland as they go, their diet of grass or other forage crops ensuing both healthy animals and flavourful meat.
Welsh lamb is one 17 Welsh foods that have protected status as part of the UK’s Geographical Indication (GI) scheme. It takes its place on the list alongside other produce rooted in tradition and location, such as Welsh beef, Conwy mussels, Anglesey sea salt, traditional Welsh cider and traditional Welsh caerphilly — their status as GI foods marking them out as distinctively Welsh by governing how, where and even when they’re produced.
While ingredients like these are the cuisine’s building blocks, it’s the way they’ve been used down the centuries that’s crucial. Traditional Welsh cuisine is simple and sustaining, with dishes such as cawl and rarebit born out of poverty, yet many of these creative culinary responses to hardship can still be found across the country. So, if you’re planning a visit, here are some of the dishes and ingredients to look out for — and, crucially, where you might find them.