In the United States, corned beef tends to have two primary applications: on a sandwich with a little mustard as an iconic Jewish deli dish, and on a platter with cabbage and potatoes at Irish pubs. As these dishes couldn’t be more culturally different, we have to wonder: is corned beef actually Irish?
The answer to that question, as you might have already surmised, is no. If you travel to Ireland in search of great corned beef and cabbage, you’re only going to find it at the tourist traps. What you will find is bacon and cabbage, one of Ireland’s most popular and beloved dishes, which is made with Irish-style back bacon, not American-style bacon.
So where did corned beef and cabbage come from?
“A lot of people think that corned beef is from Ireland. Corned beef is not from Ireland,” Joe Mallol, the executive chef at New York’s acclaimed Irish pub, The Dead Rabbit, said. “You go there, you don’t find corned beef. Corned beef is Americanized.”
When the Potato Famine brought many Irish immigrants to New York City in the 1800s, they were unable to find their traditional back bacon, but had no trouble tracking down corned beef. It was a cheap and easy substitution, so it quickly caught on. Corned beef and cabbage is an edible example of America being a “melting pot,” and you can try it for yourself at many of America’s best Irish pubs.