Simple Fish and Chips — Photo courtesy of mdidDon't you just love them? Fish and chips, licking your fingers as you delve into the wrapper on a cold blustery day the sand still between your feet. That salty crunch, the golden hue, the vinegary tang and the soft succlent fish, melting in your mouth, followed fast by a satisfying mush of chip. Some people say they should only, and best, be eaten by the seaside, and you'll certainly up your chances of getting a super fresh catch if you do choose a chippy, as the Brits call them, near the coast. But they're great in London too as our latest top ten list proves; and of course they're eaten right across the rest of the British Isles and beyond as well. Many of the Commonwealth countries, particularly Australia, New Zealand and Canada also fry up a great fish and chip supper, and similar versions on a theme exist in many cultures around the world. In Rome for instance, you can get delicious freshly fried fish near the Jewish ghetto, served up with plates of salad, and either bottles of water, or a beer or a plastic beaker of wine.
I do like to be beside the seaside — Photo courtesy of EEpaulBut back to Britain, where the dish is said to have originated. It's definitely the thing we're most famous for now anyway. If you start talking about British Food, then people often roll their eyes, or say grudgingly, Ah you mean fish and chips. Some people can't wait to try them, when they're in the country, but others feel that it's way more calories than they really hoped to consume in a single sitting and disdain them accordingly. Ok, so fried food is best not eaten every day, but there's a reason why it exists all around the world, it's finger lickingly good, and the British version packs a punch that's difficult to beat. Underneath that golden casing, is some seriously nutritious fish, and potatoes aren't half bad too. Traditionally we eat fish and chips with a roll and butter and a cup of tea. Yes, strange I know, but many Londoners, particularly in the East End like nothing better than a Friday night fish supper accompanied by a cup of tea. Mushy peas, that deliciously salty green goo is a favoured partner for many, and in the north of the country they add mint sauce too. Ketchup is of course often shaken heartily right across the plate, and some people favour mayonaise or brown sauce too. As for the fish that you might choose, well today, owing to a government law, there are many different types to choose from. Recent concerns about sustainability have meant that the ubiquitous cod, is not so common anymore, and lots more people tend to order haddock as first choice. Plaice is another old favourite, the flat fish attracting those who like a bit more fishy flavour to their meal. Then there's scampi, usually just reconstituted fishy bites, rather than the actual fish called scampi, pollock, coley, herring, and mackerel. Some fishmongers use Tilapia, a farmed fish, but they're meant to warn their customers before serving this one up unmarked.
Fish Chips and Mushy peas in the packet — Photo courtesy of Ines saraivaThe history of this dish is a little murky, but it's thought to have originated as a mass market choice in the 19th century, around the 1850s. This is when north sea trawler fishing took off and the railways connected the coast to urban centres quickly. The first official combined fish and chip shop was opened in London in 1860, although the author Charles Dickens mentions chips and fried fish halls in Whitechapel a little earlier, in his books A Tale of Two Cities, and Oliver Twist. It quickly became a working class favourite and was the only food not to be rationed during the second world war. Today's revival of all things working class and nostalgic means it's again back on the menus even in the poshest restaurants as a cheap easy food has been turned into heritage. But it's classic for a reason, and that's because it's stood the test of time and is seriously good, so next time you're in the UK make sure you sample some of the best fish and chip places the country has to offer, and you won't be disappointed.