The History Of Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips There are few things as timeless and delicious as a plate of golden, fried to perfection fish and chips. The crispy batter, coating the moist white fish and a pile of salty, crunchy potato chips will evoke a sense of delighted nostalgia in just about anyone. While fish and chips has been the national food of Britain for many, many years- it is also very popular in America – particularly in Mid-Western and coastal cities. While this dish has been around for centuries, you’d be forgiven for knowing little about its history- so in the interest of the pursuit of knowledge and deliciousness, we thought we’d shed a little light on the matter.

The Origins Of Fish And Chips

Fried fish was a popular staple for the British working class in the first half of the 19th century, with a fried fish shop even being mentioned in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist which was published in 1938. Fish was far more readily available and affordable due to rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea. The railway network also made it easier to transport the fresh fish into the more densely populated areas.  Fried, thickly cut potatoes (much thicker than the American french fry) became popular around the same time, with the dish also being mentioned in another one of Dicken’s works- A Tale Of Two Cities.  Sources are divided when it comes to the question of whose idea it was to pair the two, but it’s estimated that the winning combination was popularized in the 1860s. The officially recorded combined fish and chip shop was opened by Joseph Malin in 1865, but it’s said that the idea was coined by a certain Mr Lees in 1863.The Fish & Chip Shop - London Blogger - Urban Flip Flops - Islington 1 The concept of a fish restaurant was pioneered by Samuel Isaacs, owner of a thriving wholesale and retail fish business in London and the South of England. In 1896, he opened his first restaurant, serving fish and chips, bread and butter and tea for 9 pence. The restaurant had carpets, flowers, table cloths, cutlery and fine china- bringing the upmarket dining experience to a class of people who were previously unable to afford it. The restaurant became massively successful, spurring the rise of the fish and chip shop and fast food industries in Britain.

USA Vs. UK Fish and Chips: What’s the difference?

  • It’s all in the oil and in the batter. UK typically prefers a simple flour and water batter, sometimes adding bicarbonate of soda to create a light and bubbly texture.
  • The US  favors a thicker batter, often made with flour and milk or beer. The fish is then deep fried in peanut or vegetable oil, while the British counterpart is traditionally fried in lard, giving it a slightly richer taste.
  • British chips are thicker cut than American fries, but far less crispy.
  • It’s also not uncommon for British fish and chips to be served with a side of mushy peas and malt vinegar- whereas Americans will serve their dish with tartar sauce and coleslaw as a side.

Did this history lesson get your mouth watering?

If so, come and enjoy a delicious plate of halibut fish and chips at Gloriaz pub and grill. We have it on good authority that it’s one of the best fish and chips plates in Portland.

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