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Fish and chips

Fish and chips
Fish and chips in Norfolk, England
Alternative names Fish supper
Course Main dish
Place of origin England
Serving temperature Hot
Main ingredients Battered and fried fish with deep-fried chips

Fish and chips is a hot dish of English origin,[1] consisting of battered fish, commonly Atlantic cod or haddock, and deep-fried chips. It is a common take-away food. A common side dish is mushy peas.


  • History 1
    • England 1.1
    • Scotland 1.2
    • Ireland 1.3
    • India 1.4
    • United States 1.5
  • Composition 2
    • Cooking 2.1
    • Thickness 2.2
    • Batter 2.3
    • Choice of fish 2.4
    • Accompaniments 2.5
  • Vendors 3
  • Cultural impact 4
  • Environment 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • External links 9


Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes in the United Kingdom as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea, and the development of railways which connected the ports to major industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century, which meant that fresh fish could be rapidly transported to the heavily populated areas.[2] Deep-fried fish was first introduced into Britain during the 16th century by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain,[3][4] and is derived from pescado frito. In 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin.[5]

Fish and chips in Brighton, England

Deep-fried chips (slices or pieces of potato) as a dish may have first appeared in Britain in about the same period: the Oxford English Dictionary notes as its earliest usage of "chips" in this sense the mention in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (published in 1859): "Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil".

The modern fish-and-chip shop ("chippy" or "chipper" in modern British slang[6][7]) originated in the United Kingdom, although outlets selling fried food occurred commonly throughout Europe. Early fish-and-chip shops had only very basic facilities. Usually these consisted principally of a large cauldron of cooking fat, heated by a coal fire. During World War II fish and chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing.[8]

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Fish Labelling Regulations 2003[9][10] enact directive 2065/2001/EC and generally means that "fish" must be sold with the particular commercial name or species named; so "cod and chips" now appears on menus rather than the more vague "fish and chips". In the United Kingdom the Food Standards Agency guidance excludes caterers from this;[11] but several local Trading Standards authorities and others do say it cannot be sold merely as "fish and chips".[12][13][14]


A blue plaque marking the first chip shop in Britain, in Oldham

The dish became popular in wider circles in London and South East England in the middle of the 19th century. (Charles Dickens mentions a "fried fish warehouse" in Oliver Twist, first published in 1838), while in the north of England a trade in deep-fried chipped potatoes developed. The first chip shop stood on the present site of Oldham's Tommyfield Market.[15] It remains unclear exactly when and where these two trades combined to become the fish-and-chip shop industry we know. A Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin opened the first recorded combined fish-and-chip shop in London in 1860 or in 1865; a Mr Lees pioneered the concept in the North of England, in Mossley, in 1863.[16]

The concept of a fish restaurant was introduced by Samuel Isaacs (born 1856 in Whitechapel, London; died 1939 in Brighton, Sussex) who ran a thriving wholesale and retail fish business throughout London and the South of England in the latter part of the 19th century. Isaacs' first restaurant opened in London in 1896 serving fish and chips, bread and butter, and tea for nine pence,[17] and its popularity ensured a rapid expansion of the chain.

The restaurants were carpeted, had waited service, tablecloths, flowers, china and cutlery, and made the trappings of upmarket dining affordable to the working classes for the first time. They were located in Tottenham Court Road, St Pancras, The Strand, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Brixton and other London districts, as well as Clacton, Brighton, Ramsgate, Margate and other seaside resorts in southern England. Menus were expanded in the early 20th century to include meat dishes and other variations as their popularity grew to a total of thirty restaurants. Sam Isaacs' trademark was the phrase "This is the Plaice" combined with a picture of the punned-upon fish in question. A glimpse of the old Brighton restaurant at No.1 Marine Parade can be seen in the background of Norman Wisdom's 1955 film One Good Turn just as Norman/Pitkin runs onto the seafront; this is now the site of a Harry Ramsden's fish and chips restaurant. A blue plaque at Oldham's Tommyfield Market marks the first chips fried in Britain in 1860, and the origin of the fish and chip shop and fast food industries in Britain.[18]


Fish and chips traditionally wrapped in white paper and newspaper, Stromness, Orkney
Fish and Chips, Edinburgh, Scotland

Dundee City Council claims that " the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy - the chip - was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket."[19]

In Edinburgh, a combination of Gold Star brown sauce and water or malt vinegar, known as "sauce", or more specifically as "chippy sauce", has great popularity.[20]


In Ireland, the first fish and chips were sold by an Italian immigrant, Giuseppe Cervi, who mistakenly stepped off an America-bound ship at Cobh (then called Queenstown) in County Cork in the 1880s and walked all the way to Dublin.[21] He started by selling fish and chips outside Dublin pubs from a handcart. He then found a permanent spot in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street). His wife Palma would ask customers "Uno di questa, uno di quella?" This phrase (meaning "one of this, one of the other") entered the vernacular in Dublin as "one and one", which is still a way of referring to fish and chips in the city.[7]


The National Federation of fish Friers believes that the first fish and chip shop was set up in 1860. In India, the dish is usually based on Pomfret fish, and uses more chili paste and pepper than would be used in the UK. The dish is more of a niche market delicacy in India than a mass market dish.[22]

United States

In the United States, the dish is most commonly sold as "fish and chips," except in Wisconsin and other parts of the Upper Midwest, where this meal would be called a fish fry. The name "fish and chips" remains despite the fact that the word "chips" in the US generally refers to what are called "crisps" in the UK. (Americans typically refer to fried, sliced potatoes as fries).



Frying range

Traditional frying uses beef dripping or lard; however, vegetable oils, such as peanut oil (used because of its relatively high smoke point) now predominate. A minority of vendors in the north of England and Scotland and the majority of vendors in Northern Ireland still use dripping or lard, as it imparts a different flavour to the dish, but it has the side effect of making the fried chips unsuitable for vegetarians and for adherents of certain faiths. Lard is used in some living industrial history museums, such as the Black Country Living Museum.


Fish and sliced chips served with coleslaw in the United States
Fish and chips at a Hesburger fast food restaurant in Finland, advertised as particularly British

British chips are usually thicker than American-style French fries sold by major multinational fast food chains, resulting in a lower fat content per portion. In their homes or in non-chain restaurants, people in or from the United States may eat a thick type of chip, more similar to the British variant, sometimes referred to as steak fries.[23][24]

How much cooking fat soaks into the potato depends on the surface area and how long they are cooked. Chips have a smaller surface area per unit weight than French fries, which means absorbing less oil in a given time. On the other hand, chips, being thicker, take longer to cook than fries.


UK fish and chip shops traditionally use a simple water and flour batter, adding a little sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and a little vinegar to create lightness, as they create bubbles in the batter. Other recipes may use beer or milk batter, where these liquids are often substitutes for water. The carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter. Beer also results in an orange-brown colour. A simple beer batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different: some prefer lager[25][26] whereas others use stout or bitter.

Choice of fish

Fish and chips, photographed in New South Wales, Australia

In Britain and Ireland, cod and haddock appear most commonly as the fish used for fish and chips,[27] but vendors also sell many other kinds of fish, especially other white fish, such as pollock or coley, plaice, skate, and ray (particularly popular in Ireland); and huss or rock salmon (a term covering several species of dogfish and similar fish). In Northern Ireland, cod, plaice or whiting appear most commonly in 'fish suppers'—'supper' being Scottish & Northern Irish chip-shop slang for a food item accompanied by chips. Suppliers in Devon and Cornwall regularly offer pollock and coley as cheap alternatives to haddock due to their regular availability in a common catch.

In Australia, reef cod and rock cod (a different variety from that used in the United Kingdom), barramundi an expensive option or flake (a type of shark meat), or snapper - both cheaper options - are commonly used. From the early 21st century, farmed basa imported from Vietnam and hoki have become common in Australian fish and chip shops. Other types of fish are also used based on regional availability.

In New Zealand, snapper was originally the preferred species for battered fillets in the North Island. As catches for this fish declined, it was replaced by hoki, shark (marketed as lemon fish) and tarakihi. Bluefin gurnard and blue cod predominate in South Island fish and chips.

In the United States, the type of fish used depends on availability in a given region. Some common types are cod, halibut, flounder, tilapia or, in New England, Atlantic cod or haddock. Salmon is growing common on the West Coast, while freshwater catfish is most commonly used in the Southeast.


Cod and chips in Horseshoe Bay, Canada, served with a lemon wedge and tartar sauce

In chip shops in the United Kingdom and Ireland, salt and vinegar is traditionally sprinkled over fish and chips at the time it is served.[27] Suppliers use malt vinegar, onion vinegar (used for pickling onions), or the cheaper non-brewed condiment. In Britain a portion of mushy peas is a popular side dish [28] as are a range of pickles that typically include gherkins, onions and eggs.[29] In table-service restaurants and pubs, the dish is usually served with a slice of lemon for squeezing over the fish and without any sauces or condiments, with salt, vinegar and sauces available at the customer's leisure.[30]

In Ireland, Wales and Northern England, most takeaways serve warm portions of side-sauces such as curry sauce, gravy or mushy peas. The sauces are usually poured over the chips. In some areas, this dish without fish is referred to as 'wet chips'. Other fried products include 'scraps' (also known as 'bits' in Southern England), originally a by-product of fish frying. Still popular in Northern England, they were given as treats to the children of customers. Portions prepared and sold today consist of loose blobs of batter, deep fried to a crunchy golden crisp in the cooking-fat. The very popular potato scallop or potato cake consists of slices of potato dipped in fish batter and deep fried until golden brown. These are often accompanied for dipping by the warm sauces listed above.[31]

In Edinburgh and the Lothians salt and sauce (or saut an sauce) is the normal accompaniment traditionally sprinkled over fish and chips or almost anything else bought from the fish-and-chips shops. The watery "sauce" is a mixture of malt vinegar or non-brewed condiment and/or water and Rowat's or Gold Star brand brown sauce, and it is mixed and bottled—often in an old glass fizzy drink bottle with a hole pierced in the screw cap—by each fish-and-chip shop to their own secret recipe.

In Australia and New Zealand, plain salt is usually sprinkled over fish and chips just before serving. Some customers may choose to salt food themselves, given current public health concerns about salt intake. Another popular condiment is tomato sauce. Tartar sauce is also very popular for the fish. Both tomato and tartar sauce are usually sold in small plastic tubs on the shop counter. Complimentary slices of lemon are sometimes served with the dish or takeaway pack, although many New Zealanders grow lemons at home. Less commonly, following British and Irish traditions, malt vinegar is the condiment of choice of some Australasian fish and chip lovers. In New Zealand, most fish and chip shops now offer a choice between battered and crumbed fish, and battered hotdogs, Paua fritters, whitebait fritters, battered potato fritters and other deep fried novelties are also usually available.

In Canada, fish and chips may be served with the traditional salt and vinegar, but a lemon wedge and tartar sauce is often the accompaniment found in table service restaurants. Coleslaw of both the vinegared or creamy variety is often interchangeably served as a side.

In the United States, most restaurants serve fish and chips with tartar sauce, ketchup, and coleslaw, although malt vinegar also is sometimes offered, especially at UK-themed pubs.


Fish and chip stalls in West Bay, Dorset, England
A mobile Fish and chip vendor in Bathgate, Scotland

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, fish and chips usually sell through independent restaurants and take-aways known as fish and chip shops. Outlets range from small affairs to chain restaurants. Locally-owned seafood restaurants are also popular in many local markets. Mobile "chip vans" serve to cater for temporary occasions.[32] In Canada, the outlets may be referred to as chip wagons. In the United Kingdom some shops have amusing names, such as "A Salt and Battery", "The Codfather","The Frying Scotsman","Oh My Cod", and "Frying Nemo"[33] In countries such as New Zealand and Australia, fish-and-chip vendors are a popular business and source of income among the Asian community, particularly Chinese migrants.[34]

In Ireland, the majority of traditional vendors are migrants or the descendants of migrants from southern Italy. A trade organisation exists to represent this tradition.[35]

Fish and chips is a popular lunch meal eaten by families travelling to seaside resorts for day trips who do not bring their own picnic meals.

Fish-and-chip outlets sell roughly 25% of all the white fish consumed in the United Kingdom, and 10% of all potatoes.[36]

The existence of numerous competitions and awards for "best fish-and-chip shop"[37] testifies to the recognised status of this type of outlet in popular culture.[38]

Fish-and-chip shops traditionally wrapped their product in newspaper, or with an inner layer of white paper (for hygiene) and an outer layer of newspaper or blank newsprint (for insulation and to absorb grease), though the use of newspaper for wrapping has almost ceased on grounds of hygiene. Nowadays, establishments usually use food-quality wrapping paper, occasionally printed on the outside to emulate newspaper.

The British National Federation of Fish Friers was founded in 1913. It promotes fish and chips and offers training courses.

A previous world record for the "largest serving of fish and chips" was held by Gadaleto's Seafood Market in New Paltz, New York.[39][40] This 2004 record was broken by Yorkshire pub Wensleydale Heifer in July 2011.[41] An attempt to break this record was made by Doncaster fish and chip shop Scawsby Fisheries in August 2012, which served 33 pounds (15 kg) of battered cod alongside 64 pounds (29 kg) of chips.[42]

Cultural impact

A neon sign for Fish and Chips in London

The long-standing Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays - especially during Lent - and of substituting fish for other types of meat on that day - continues to influence habits even in predominantly Protestant, Anglican, semi-secular and secular societies. Friday night remains a traditional occasion for eating fish-and-chips; and many cafeterias and similar establishments, while varying their menus on other days of the week, habitually offer fish and chips every Friday.[43]

In Australia and New Zealand, the words "fish and chips" are often used to highlight the difference in each country's short-i vowel sound [ɪ]. Australian English has a higher forward sound [i], close to the y in happy and city, while New Zealand English has a lower backward sound [ɘ], a slightly higher version of the a in about and comma. Hence many people from other dialects hear an Australian say "feesh and cheeps" and a New Zealander say "fush and chups" for fish and chips.[44][45]


In the UK, waste oil from fish and chip shops has become a useful source of biodiesel.[46] German biodiesel company Petrotec have outlined plans to produce biodiesel in the UK from waste oil from the British fish-and-chip industry.[47]

See also


  1. ^ Alexander, James (18 December 2009). "The unlikely origin of fish and chips". BBC News. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Fish and chips - A great British tradition". Archived from the original on 16 January 2008. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  3. ^ Alexander, James (18 December 2009). "The unlikely origin of fish and chips". BBC News. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "The origins of 10 modern classic foods - Channel4 - 4Food". Channel4. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Rayner, Jay (3 November 2005). "Enduring Love". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 19 January 2003. In 1860 a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe called Joseph Malin opened the first business in London's East End selling fried fish alongside chipped potatoes which, until then, had been found only in the Irish potato shops. 
  6. ^ "Chippy smells of chips complaint". BBC News. 7 November 2006. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Hegarty, Shane (3 November 2009). "How fish and chips enriched a nation". The Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland). p. 17. 
  8. ^ "Resources for Learning, Scotland: Rationing". 5 January 1998. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  9. ^ "Fish Labelling Regulations (England) 2003". The Stationery Office. 2003. Retrieved 4 April 2009  (equivalent similarly-named legislation applies in other countries of the UK)
  10. ^ "European Communities (Fish Labelling) Regulations, 2003" (PDF). Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "Guidance Notes for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland".   (Section A.2)
  12. ^ "Food Labelling For Catering Establishments". Blackpool Council. Retrieved 4 April 2009 
  13. ^ "Business Advice Fact Sheet". Norfolk County Council. Retrieved 4 April 2009 
  14. ^ "Labelling & Pricing". Nationwide Caterers Association. Retrieved 4 April 2009 
  15. ^ Chaloner, W. H.; Henderson, W. O. (1990). Industry and Innovation: Selected Essays. Taylor & Francis.  
  16. ^ Historic uk - the heritage accommodation guide. "Tradition Historic UK, Fish and Chips". Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  17. ^ England Eats Out by John Burnett - Published by Pearson Education, 2004 ISBN 0-582-47266-0
  18. ^ The Portuguese gave us fried fish, the Belgians invented chips but 150 years ago an East End boy united them to create The World's Greatest Double Act Mail Online. Retrieved 21 September 2011
  19. ^ "Dundee Fact File". Dundee City Council. Retrieved 20 March 2007. 
  20. ^ SiteWise - Content Management System - www.pureenergymultimedia.comwise/. "Did You Know?". Federation of Fish Friers. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  21. ^ "National Fish and Chips Day: Thank cod for Giuseppe - Food & Drink, Lifestyle -". Irish Independent. 
  22. ^ "Fish n' chips, a great Indian delicacy". Times of India. 9 February 2012. 
  23. ^ "Online recipes". Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  24. ^ "More online recipes". Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  25. ^ "Deep fried fish in beer". Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  26. ^ Hix, Mark (26 January 2008). "Gurnard in beer batter". The Independent (London). Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  27. ^ a b Alan Masterson, tictoc design. Seafish. On Plate. Fish & chips" (UK Sea Fish Industry Authority website)""". Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  28. ^ BBC. "Crispy fish & chips with mushy peas recipe - Recipes - BBC Good Food". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  29. ^ Neil (23 September 2012). "Pickled Eggs | British Food: A History". Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  30. ^ "How to Eat Fish and Chips like the British - Yahoo! Voices". 16 July 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  31. ^ (13 July 2007). "Do you know what scraps are? And why they should be free". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  32. ^ "Starting a Mobile Catering Business in UK". Retrieved 16 October 2012. 
  33. ^ "Chip shops: oh my cod, the plaices I've seen | Life and style". London: The Guardian. 15 January 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  34. ^ Swillingham, Guy (2005). Shop Horror. London: Fourth Estate.  
  35. ^ "ITICA - Irish Traditional Italian Chipper Association, chippers in Ireland, Irish chippers, Fish and Chip Day — ITICA". Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "Fish and Chip Facts". Barton's Fish and Chips. Retrieved 2012-01-30. 
  37. ^ "The Fish & Chip Shop of the Year Competition". Seafish. Retrieved 4 January 2007. 
  38. ^ "Couple scoop best chip shop award". BBC News. 1 February 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2007. 
  39. ^ Guinnes World Record Claim ID# 45775
  40. ^ "Hudson Valleys Freshest Seafood and Lobster, retail market, restaurant". 16 April 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  41. ^ "Giant fish and chip supper breaks world record". 2 July 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  42. ^ "Cod and chips world record battered in Doncaster". BBC News. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  43. ^ Gerald Priestland (1972). Frying tonight: the saga of fish & chips. Gentry Books. p. 28.  
  44. ^ Crystal, David (2003), The Cambridge encyclopedia of the English language (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 354 
  45. ^ Trudgill, Peter; Hannah, Jean (2002), International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard English (4th ed.), London: Arnold, pp. 23–24 
  46. ^ "German Biodiesel Firm To Use Chip Fat". 19 March 2008. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  47. ^ Michael Hogan (19 March 2008). "German Biodiesel Firm To Use Chip Fat In UK, US". Retrieved 1 October 2010. 


  • Gerald Priestland (1972). Frying tonight: the saga of fish & chips. Gentry Books.  
  • Walton, John K (2000) Fish & Chips & the British Working Class, 1870-1940 Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780718521202.

External links

  • "Top UK dish 'hooked French first'": BBC News: Fish and chips invented in France? Retrieved 2008-05-27
  • "My plaice or yours?" - article from The Guardian detailing some chippy terminology. Retrieved 2008-05-27
  • Far Flung Fish and Chips - historical article
  • "Fish and chips": the (UK) Sea Fish Industry Authority's views. Retrieved 2008-05-27
  • BBC TWO Ching He Huang-style fish and chips
  • National Federation of Fish Friers, the UK industry body for fish and chip shops.
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