Haggis and bagpipes at Vancouver's Floata Chinese Restaurant
It's a surreal sight for most first-timers at the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner: inside the bustling Floata Chinese restaurant, a blaring procession of bagpipe players and drummers comes marching in, weaving through the rows of round tables. At the centre of everyone's attention is one man in a kilt holding a silver platter, on which rests a steaming plate of haggis.
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep mixed with suet, oatmeal and seasoning, boiled in a sheep's stomach (or sausage casing). It's as essential to Scotland's Robbie Burns Day as dumplings and nian gao cakes are to Chinese during the lunar new year.
Reactions to haggis ranged from loud whistling and spirited cheers from the Scottish-Canadians at the tables to to nervous smiles and shifty eyes from people who had never seen haggis before (a similar reaction that many have to first-time tastings of boiled chicken feet).
But how does the stuff taste?
Rich, hearty and mostly liver-flavoured, the grey mixture is quite delicious but also a bit hard eat in large quantities because of its strong taste. According to a good friend, though, there are people attending Gung Haggis who can clean a whole plate full in one sitting. It must be true, as barely 15 minutes into the dish, the table next to ours saw that we were only a third finished our portion and asked if they can have our leftover haggis since they'd already finished theirs.
Haggis shares space with steamed salmon and lettuce wrap at the Wong-Chu table.
The Chinese-style haggis wonton (technically haggis mixed with shrimp) is the staple at every Gung Haggis event. It's an 'only-in-Vancouver' recipe, and the wontons disappeared faster than I could catch photos of the dish (this one from Todd Wong's Gung Haggis website).
Photo courtesy of Todd Wong
If you missed the taste of haggis this time around, be sure to catch it at next year's Gung Haggis Fat Choy.