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Fish & Chips! A Short History

Whether you’ve been all over the British Isles or just visited a small quadrant of them fish and chips is the most well known comfort food. To me it’s the first thing I eat right off the plane. Just ask my wife. I absolutely enjoy the dish so much if I had my way it would be the official food of America. Now there were times I had so-so fish and chips (it’s all about the breading IMHO) and many times I had amazing drool-on-the-corner of your mouth fish and chips.
How many of you folks like it? Importantly, can you taste the difference between the cod over the haddock? Or between the pollock, hake or coley? If so which fish version is your favorite? Where did you enjoy the most earth rock’in fish and chips?
Here’s a link to read about the origins of fish and chips https://docksidehhi.com/the-history-of-fish-and-chips/

Posted by
2017 posts

I can take or leave Fish n Chips but I will say that London's North Sea Restaurant still is my favorite.

Posted by
2494 posts

Why can't you get proper British style fish & chips in north America? The Americans call it fish & chips but what you really get are French Fries = the chips cut into tiny little sticks. Why can’t they cut the potato into the bigger size that you get in Britain - which also happens to be more healthy as it absorbs less oil.

I have just returned from north America to Britain and to be honest, some of the establishments that I had fish & chips would not last 5 minutes in the UK.

Posted by
8884 posts

James…
My question is why eat fish and chips here in the US?

Posted by
381 posts

I am with you, Guy. Although, I don’t think an article of fish and chips is complete without a paragraph about mushy peas.

A few years back, we were hiking the Cotswolds and made it to Broadway for a pit stop in the early afternoon. Aside from a real ale or two, I didn’t want to spoil my dinner with a plate of fish and chips so I ordered 2 sides of mushy peas. Not a lot of peeps in the pub at 2pm, so it was easy to hear the cook in the back say: “2 orders of mushy peas? That’s it? Is he having a laugh? 4 years of culinary school and I am scooping mushy peas in a bowl.” He showed his face when we were heading out and made fun of me but a nice memory to take away.

Posted by
2594 posts

I agree that all too often in the USA you get frites or potatoes prepared in the French manner instead of chips when you order fish & chips. Frustrating.

The best fish & chips I have had in England was in an old old old (by California standards) restaurant ship more or less permanently docked on the Thames, closer to Greenwich than to central London. I can't remember exactly where, but somehow I think it was near the Naval College. We were hungry and didn't have the energy to keep searching, so we stood out as not properly dressed, and I think the fish & chips was one of the cheapest things on the menu. Not only was the prep and the ingredients top notch, they also brought out all this frippery apparatus that held the condiments and cutlery -- several kinds of malt vinegar, IIRC. This kind of eating calls for paper napkins, not the high street fabric swatches that these kinds of establishments provide.

Best I have had anywhere were in Boston and Baltimore back in the late '70s. Their accents were even harder to understand than the Londoners :-)

Posted by
1306 posts

The Batchelors company are synonymous with mushy peas.
The company was founded in Sheffield in 1895 and ran the largest canning plant in the UK just by the Wednesday ground.
Became very wealthy, their country house in the Peak District is now the 250 bed YHA Edale.

Posted by
2253 posts

James--where in North America were you? I ask because here in the Seattle area, we have some excellent fish n chips.

Posted by
7031 posts

The best fish and chips I had were in Plymouth. Absolutely delicious! The worst I had was at a pub on Holy Island. The fish was good but the breading was terrible.

Posted by
889 posts

Golden Hind, 73 Marylebone Lane, London……fish and chips and DELICIOUS

Posted by
465 posts

Leo Burdock in Dublin. I had never seen such a large piece of fish or that many potatoes in an order before. Much tastier and more quantity than I had ever had in the US, though I have had some pretty good fish and chips here in the PNW.

Posted by
7726 posts

My only complaint about Fish and Chips in London, and many other places, is that for what was a cheap meal once, now will not get you much change back from a 20 GBP note, maybe even needing to add some...and the mushy peas are extra cost.

Posted by
5065 posts

...only complaint about Fish and Chips...what was a cheap meal once...now will not get you much change back from a 20 GBP note...

Seems to me that is the case with a lot of things since Covid. Sometimes I wonder if it's a case of trying to recover all the lost revenue, true inflation, or just "greedflation". At least it's good for the ale business as it will drive one to drink.

Posted by
2744 posts

I love fish and chips! Actually, I love the fish; I eat few or no chips. On a 2 week trip to Scotland about 15 years ago, I got fish and chips ten times! The best I’ve had were in Chester in 2002 and in Mevagissey earlier this year. Sorry I forget the names of both places, but I seem to recall the Mevagissey shop had Chippy in the name. I’ve rarely had bad fish and chips, though I had some in Salisbury this year that I would call mediocre if I was feeling charitable. That’s the last time I’ll go in the first place I see, even if it’s raining.

Posted by
7726 posts

At least it's good for the ale business as it will drive one to drink.

Oh my, don't get me started about the price of a pint in London! Almost forced me to limit myself to a half-pint.

Posted by
937 posts

Mushy peas is a fairly regional thing. I've never had mushy peas with fish and chips.

It still feels a bit odd to me to say "fish and chips" when referring to what you'd buy in a chippy wrapped in paper. Where I'm from in Scotland, that's a "fish supper". "Special fish" is in breadcrumbs, usually fried to order.

Posted by
937 posts

My main experience of how fish and chips should be served from a chippy is based on the west of Scotland. There would never be mushy peas on the menu in the Italian-run chippies up there. I've never considered ordering it in London and I don't think I've ever ordered fish and chips as a sit down meal where it might be served as a side, like in a pub.

Another small interesting regional difference is "salt and sauce" in Edinburgh, rather than salt and vinegar. "Sauce" in Edinburgh is some kind of mix of brown sauce (like HP Sauce) and vinegar.

Posted by
28 posts

Your guys response crack me up! Love to hear your experiences.
My best fish’n chips was on the Isle of Skye in Portree at a pub connected to a hotel I believe. The chips (actual potato chips) were great and the fish - buttery and lightly flaky when tearing it with your mouth.
Fish’n chips alone is an international language.

Posted by
914 posts

Two spots leap to mind:

(1) The Scallop Shell in Bath: the fish and chips were very, very good, but what I especially remember is the tartar sauce -- it was so tasty!

(2) A chippy in Oban -- can't recall the name but it may simply be Oban Fish & Chips -- with excellent fish and nice hot chips.

Now I'm hungry!

Posted by
1811 posts

I like fried fish. I like fries, frites, chips whatever they are called in country. Unfortunately, I don't like a batter coating. So, Fish and Chips UK style are usually not a go to meal for me. I prefer a breaded coating because more times than not, a batter seems to get too oily. There is an art to deep frying fish and most places are so busy the oil temperature gets too low and that makes a bad fish fry.

Posted by
1306 posts

Both fish n chip shops in Portree and come to that the great one in Broadford had my custom last year.
Bit of a groupie for Macari's in Fort William too.

The one at the station in Mallaig won't be revisting.
Its very Yorkshire, you don't see our version of fishcakes often elsewhere

Oh and the Inverness Tourist Board Facebook today has Taylor Swift laying low there before her Edinburgh gigs.
Apparently.. was on the lash at Gellions before going to Macleods chippy

Posted by
7465 posts

Our best fish & chips was at the Russell’s Fish restaurant next door to their elegant restaurant in Broadway - yum! Perfect amount of coating, and the right balance between crispy & tender with each bite.

Posted by
28 posts

I agree with some about American fish and chips but to their credit I have had some of the best here in the states. Mind you it always came with fries but one could always ask to substitute that out for actual chips.

Posted by
1383 posts

Panko breaded cod fish and chips at Burien Fish House, Burien, WA

Posted by
33339 posts

joanne, welcome to the forums. your lightly veiled ad isn't actually relevant to this thread. Bread makers are not used to prepare fish or chips. It appears that your address in your profile is so that people can find you?

Posted by
381 posts

The Batchelors company are synonymous with mushy peas.
The company was founded in Sheffield in 1895 and ran the largest canning plant in the UK just by the Wednesday ground.
Became very wealthy, their country house in the Peak District is now the 250 bed YHA Edale.

Richard,
They still must be doing well as I can order cans of Batchelors Mushy Peas on Amazon here in the states. It isn’t as good as being on UK soil (preferably in a pub), but good nonetheless.

Also, RE the OP question if folks here can taste the difference between haddock and, say, cod, I don’t think I can. Can you?

Posted by
33339 posts

haddock and, say, cod,

for me it is the texture, cod is firmer usually

Posted by
7726 posts

Is Replacing Bread and French Fries Feasible While Traveling?

Bread and fries are not in themselves "unhealthy", but rather the volume and frequency in which you eat them. Fish and chips are something to certainly have in the UK, especially if you combine it with a great experience. But to eat fish and chips every day of the trip would be a mistake.

Same with nearly everything else, your best bet is to go ahead and try anything, the more variety, the less likelihood you will overdo anything. I also find I eat many fewer highly processed foods while traveling, so gain some healthy points there , I walk much more, so burn more calories in a day, and generally have the attitude that I am "on vacation" so indulge a bit more.

Posted by
6762 posts

Batchelors as a company has not existed in a long time. It is now just one of many brand names of Premier Foods plc

Posted by
6762 posts

Staying on Mushy Peas I was joining a train at Wigan North Western today. There is a wonderful new mural in the underpass with a A to Z of Wigan dialect words. One of them is "Babbiesyed Peywet".
That is a steak/suet pudding with the juice from mushy peas.

If ever at that station the mural is worth a viewing.

Posted by
653 posts

I'm perhaps an oddball in that I've had better fish & chips in the US, overall, than in the UK. One of the reasons I like US fish & chips is the custom of including cole slaw rather than peas as the vegetable side; I love cole slaw. But I can live with garden peas, and even mushy peas if they're not too mushy. As for chips, good US pubs will serve broad fries that approximate British chips quite well.

My favorite so far in the UK was in Bristol at a Wetherspoon pub. (As I've mentioned elsewhere, fish & chips without beer, to me, is like pasta without sauce, so pubs are where I'll eat my fish & chips. But YMMV.) And to publicans in the UK: please stock hot sauce, preferably Texas Pete or at least something other than Tabasco, to put on my fish!

ETA: if you have a chance to have halibut as your battered fish, do it! It's worth the extra few quid.

Posted by
269 posts

I’m with jphbucks on this one. I also prefer cole slaw to peas of any style. I’ll go even further out on a limb by saying that while there’s nothing wrong with the thick cut chips (what we Americans tend to call “steak fries”), I would rather have thin and crispy fries. In general I think fish and chips, whether prepared traditional British style or more New World, are just as good in the US as in the UK. Agree with a previous poster that the North Sea Restaurant in Bloomsbury, London is very good for either fried or grilled fish.

Posted by
937 posts

I think if you're starting to talk about "steak fries" vs skinny fries like you get in McDonalds, coleslaw, "Texas Pete" sauce (never heard of it) and a sit down restaurant in Bloomsbury that does good grilled fish, you're missing the point. I'm sure those things are great, but they're not really "fish and chips". The whole point is that fish and chips from a chippy is a cultural experience, more than the sum of its parts, and is judged on its merits as such. The other things you mention aren't comparing like for like.

Posted by
8660 posts

GerryM is right. I've had very good F&C in a few places in the US, but its not the same experience as shouting your order in a greasy crowded chippy late in the day and eating out of a newspaper (admittedly fake these days). It's kind of like finding the best barbecue in hole-in-the-wall joints. Might not satisfy a "foodie" but it's honest. It's meant to be fast food.

Posted by
653 posts

I think if you're starting to talk about "steak fries" vs skinny fries like you get in McDonalds, coleslaw, "Texas Pete" sauce (never heard of it) and a sit down restaurant in Bloomsbury that does good grilled fish, you're missing the point. I'm sure those things are great, but they're not really "fish and chips". The whole point is that fish and chips from a chippy is a cultural experience, more than the sum of its parts, and is judged on its merits as such. The other things you mention aren't comparing like for like.

Whatever.

Some people in England seem to treat this meal with a level of sanctity that I reserve solely for golf courses.
ETA: If you haven't had Texas Pete, you're seriously missing out. Though Cholula will also work.

Posted by
937 posts

Whatever.

lol I feel there should be a hand gesture to go with that.

Remember, I was the guy who defended your right to enjoy Wetherspoons fish and chips, in the face of much derision and quasi-political grumblings.

I feel I have to draw the line at coleslaw and hot sauce though. Pineapple on pizza anyone? :)

Posted by
2594 posts

Stan's last remark about 'it's meant to be fast food' is going to be grist for several mills in my upcoming posts -- it still surprises me that some people try to turn street food or authentic Philly cheesesteaks or so on and so on into something upscale or drawn out -- things that are best gobbled up are best gobbled up. Everyone realizes that McD's french fries turn into packing peanuts if you wait to eat them, or try to reheat them in a microwave oven, but they somehow still imagine that hoagies or muffuletas or whatever can be stretched out -- they are at their best when downed asap, amirite? This is why those lobster sandwiches are pointless anywhere except where and when they are in-season and cheap and can be scarfed....

Posted by
269 posts

Very few people who frequent this forum would have any idea about how to obtain greasy fish and chips wrapped in newspaper from some local beloved chippery in Bradford, or wherever. That doesn’t matter. Fish and chips are comfort food. They’re never great, and never terrible. It doesn’t matter who cooks them. When we Americans get them in the UK, we likely give extra credit just because we’re in the UK. But they really aren’t any better than at home.

Posted by
653 posts

I feel I have to draw the line at coleslaw and hot sauce though. Pineapple on pizza anyone? :)

There's nothing wrong with pineapple on pizza ... for other people.

Appreciate the good-natured badinage! But seriously, put some good hot sauce on your fried fish and you'll see what you've been missing. It's pure heaven.

Posted by
9045 posts

I worked for Arthur Treachers' Fish and Chips back in the 70s and loved the product. Ate it every day and never got tired of it, even after 4 years. Malt vinegar on your fish and chips is a must and they had those wonderful thick chips.
Other than those, the best fish and chips I have had were in Scotland, in a beach restaurant near Edinburgh. Place looked like it dropped in from the 1940s, but the food was delicious.