Lagan Ribs in Belfast has introduced a new dry rub for flavouring meat. The small company, which has developed a successful business producing handcrafted sauces at St George’s Market in Belfast, created the new rub through a focus on innovative food products during the coronavirus lockdown.
The rub, according to chef John O’Hare, who founded the company with business partner and longstanding friend John Graham, is the outcome of work over several months. “I’ve been experimenting with the rub for some considerable time. In addition to the traditional spices, the rub features a small amount of dulse harvested by hand from the local coastline for a different flavour,” he adds.
The company has been providing freshly cooked ribs on a food-to-go basis at the popular market.
“It’s been an immensely difficult year, one we all want to forget,” he says. “We had launched Lagan Rib in late 2018and had been looking forward to growing the business especially last year,” he continues. “We had just launched a range of our own sauces at St George’s and had set up a small kitchen just around the corner from the building.
“We love the market,” he continues, “there’s a great vibe especially when there’s a live band. The craic is mighty particularly with visitors from abroad eager to find out how we cook the ribs and our unique marinade. We also try to use as many ingredients as possible from other traders such as bread, vegetables and spices. The ribs are sourced from Armstrong Meats at Castlereagh,” he explains. “Our hope is that the market gets back quickly to those days when the coronavirus has gone.
“We’d make the sauces and marinate pork ribs overnight and then take them over the road to our stall every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Business was brisk especially from hundreds of tourists who came to enjoy our freshly marinated and pulled ribs in a bun and also to buy our range of sauces,” he adds. The popularity of their sauces – Irish Whiskey, Irish Cider, and Rum and Raisin – led to requests from shoppers where they could buy them outside the market,” he adds. The tourists, of course, largely disappeared in 2020. And there were fewer local shoppers when the market was open.
“We certainly saw scope to build a strong business on the back of the distinctive sauces and other food we had been looking at,” he continues. “The pandemic inhibited our work at the market and encouraged us to look at other ideas including retailing the sauces and our recent launch of a dry rub for meats. Innovation is the way ahead for us now.
The two friends have known each other for over 30 years and both worked separately in bars around Belfast. John Graham owned several local pubs while John O’Hare served his time as a chef and created tasty dishes in pubs, such as the famed Kitchen Bar, before his retirement in 2018.