Published on July 5, 2016
Fish and chips is a hot dish of English origin consisting of fried battered fish and hot chips. It is a common take-away food. and an early example of culinary fusion,
Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes in England 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, so that fresh fish could be rapidly transported to the heavily populated areas. Fried fish was first brought to England by Spanish Jews, and is considered the model for the fish element of the dish. Originally, Spanish Jews settling in England in the 17th century would have prepared fried fish in a manner similar to Pescado frito, which is coated in a flour. Battered fish is first coated in flour then dipped into a batter consisting of flour mixed with liquid, usually water but sometimes beer. Some newer modifications to the recipe may have cornflour added, and instead of beer sometimes soda water is added. In 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin who sold “fish fried in the Jewish fashion”.
Fish and chips
Deep-fried chips (slices or pieces of potato) as a dish may have first appeared in England 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 English slang) 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. The fish-and-chip shop later evolved into a fairly standard format, with the food served, in paper wrappings, to queuing customers, over a counter behind which the fryers were located. During World War II fish and chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing.
British fish and chips were originally served in a wrapping of old newspapers, but this practice largely ceased as a result of European Union directives, with plain paper, cardboard or plastic being used instead.
In the United Kingdom the Fish Labelling Regulations 2003 and in Ireland the European Communities (Labelling of Fishery and Aquaculture Products) Regulations 2003 respectively enact directive 2065/2001/EC, and generally mean that “fish” must be sold with the particular commercial name or species named; so, for example, “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: but several local Trading Standards authorities and others do say it cannot be sold merely as “fish and chips”.
A blue plaque in Oldham (Greater Manchester) marking the site of England’s first chip shop
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. 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.
The concept of a fish restaurant, as opposed to take-away, 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, 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 England in 1860, and the origin of the fish and chip shop and fast food industries in England.
Fish and chips traditionally wrapped in white paper and newspaper
Dundee City Council claims that chips were first sold by a Belgian immigrant, Edward De Gernier, in the city’s Greenmarket in the 1870s.
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.