Fish and chips is arguably our national dish, though with rivals these days including Chicken Tikka, Sweet and Sour Pork, and even falafel gaining ground. This diversity reflects the influence of many cultures on our cuisine, so perhaps fish and chips as an example of the meeting of two immigrant cultures still trumps its rivals – helped by mushy peas at times.
Jewish immigrants at least as far back as the 18th century ran fried fish shops in the East End, fast food joints long before the phrase was invented, dipping fish in flour to crisp it up and prevent the fat spitting. The chips it seems came a bit later, probably via immigrants from Belgium, home of the frîte. Who put the two together to make a filling and tasty meal is debatable, but it is widely thought that Joseph Malin opened the first British fish and chip shop on Cleveland Street in London in 1860.
We’ve all got favourite chippies – please tell us about yours – with their own special batter recipes, and depending on location different fish on offer – cod and haddock most often, sweet fleshed-plaice, meaty rock salmon... but the elements that make great fish and chips remain the same: crispy batter around fresh fish; and firm twice-fried chips, doused in malt vinegar and too much salt for our own good. Eaten with a sea-breeze in your face there are few finer treats.
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