In defense of the haggis!

In Dining to Tell 

Please, please just give Haggis a chance.

With New Year’s Eve just behind us and Burn’s night up ahead, it is time people become acquainted with the great Scottish dish…The Haggis.

If you watch any movie and TV show and the infamous Scottish dish is mentioned, it is usually accompanied with mutually horrified faces and distressed utterings. I feel this is a totally unfair portrayal and have decided to set the record straight with my: Defense of the Haggis!

Even I have to admit that when you answer the typical question, ‘what’s in a haggis?’ it doesn’t exactly sound appealing: sheep’s heart, liver and lungs boiled in a stomach. Doesn’t exactly get your mouth watering! However, clearly this is not the be-all-and-end-all of the dish…

There has to be something more to a plate of food that has inspired poetry and legend.

The 25th January is set aside to honor the Scottish poet Robert Burns, a night of poetry, drinking and eating. During the evening everyone will stand for the entrance of the haggis, brought in on a large dish and paraded around the room behind a bagpiper, it is then placed with great ceremony on the host’s table who then recites Robert Burns’ ‘Address to the Haggis.’

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,

Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace

As lang’s my airm.

At the end of the recital the host will then take a knife and slice open the haggis. Dramatic and compelling stuff!

So why has the haggis inspired this level of respect? Even though very little is known about the true origins of the haggis, it was the Scots who truly embraced this dish as their own. Very popular amongst workers and cattle drovers it was an excellent way to transport meals on long journeys and the ingredients were always readily available.


It is a simple dish, like I’ve said above, a mixture of minced offal blended with oatmeal, spices, onion, suet and salt. Then boiled together (traditionally) in a sheep’s stomach, however, more recently in a synthetic skin similar to that of sausages. The taste really does depend on who is cooking and how it is prepared. I recently had a friend inform me that the only time they had eaten haggis was out of a can…unsurprisingly they didn’t find it to their taste!

There seems to be a great deal of mystery surrounding the haggis and its unique popularity and fame around the world. It has also been the centre of a joke where Scots tell tourists that a haggis is really a 4-legged woolen beastie, roaming the highlands of Scotland, but unsteadily because its front legs are shorter than its back legs. This has apparently led to Americans haggis-spotting around the country. Maybe this story telling is what has endeared it to the hearts of the people and created such a cult following.

And, when all is said and done it simply does taste good. Spiced and steaming minced meat, dished up with a hearty serving of neeps and tatties (turnips and mashed potato), all washed down with a generous dram of whisky. I could think of many a worse meal to be had.

So in short before you judge it based on hearsay and stories told by people eating the canned stuff (seriously!) please, please do give haggis a chance and even head out for a Burns Supper this January. It is well worth it.

Where to find haggis in Dubai!

I am sorry to say Dubai does fall a little short on the haggis offerings. But the places that do have it do it well!

If you are a regular reader of Keep Dining you may have noticed that I seriously like the haggis balls at Copper Dog in the Double Tree Hilton. I have even managed to convince skeptical friends to give them a taste with rousing reviews. Served with a zingy mustard mayonnaise they are a real treat, especially when enjoyed with one of their expertly selected whiskies. They are also hosting their own Burn’s Night on the 25th January, with the option of haggis, neeps and tatties plus a pint of beer for 115DHS per person, or a very traditional Cullen skink soup (made from smoked haddock and potatoes) for 65DHS.

Reform Bar & Grill in the Lakes hosts a yearly Burns Night supper, you can enjoy a 3 course traditional meal of Scot’s fare for 180DHS per person. An authentic evening of haggis, tatties, traditional soups, whisky and hopefully a bagpiper! Make sure you book your place!

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