Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Fish and chips
Fish and chips is deep-fried fish in batter with deep-fried potatoes, and a popular take-away food. Fish and chips is originally from the United Kingdom, but also very popular in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and some coastal towns of the Netherlands and Norway; and also increasingly so in the United States and elsewhere. For decades it was the dominant (if not the only) take-away food in the United Kingdom.
The fried potatoes are called chips in British and international usage; and while American English calls them french fries, the combination is still called "fish and chips". (Potato chips, an American innovation, are a different potato-derived food, and are known as crisps in the United Kingdom.) The traditional way is to fry in beef fat, though some chips shops use vegatable oil, which imparts a different taste to the dish. Some maintain that the best types of potatoes to use for chips are 'Lincolnshire Whites' or 'Maris Piper'.
Fish and chips have separately been eaten for many years – though the potato was not introduced to Europe until the 17th century. The originally Sephardi dish Pescado frito , or deep-fried fish, came to the Netherlands and England with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries. The dish became popular in more widespread circles in London and the south-east in the middle of the 19th century (Charles Dickens mentions a "fried fish warehouse" in Oliver Twist) whilst in the north of England a trade in deep-fried "chipped" potatoes developed. It is unclear when and where these two trades were merged to become the fish and chip shop industry we know today. The first combined fish and chip shop was probably the one opened in London by Joseph Malin in 1860.
Choice of fish
The most common fish used for fish and chips in England is cod, but many kinds of fish are used, especially other white fish, such as pollock or haddock; skate; and rock salmon (dogfish). In northern England and Scotland haddock is the most popular choice.
In Australia the preferred type of fish is cod (though of a different variety than that used in the UK) or flake, a type of shark meat. Increasing demand and the decline of shark stocks due to overfishing has seen flake become more expensive and, as in the UK, other white fish, such as barramundi, is often substituted.
In New Zealand snapper is preferred because of its superior taste, but hoki is an inexpensive alternative.
In South Africa hake (Merluccius capensis) is the most commonly used fish for fish and chips, while kingklip (Xiphiurus capensis, known as cuskeel internationally) is a less common and generally more expensive alternative.
In the UK, fish and chips are usually served with free salt and vinegar. This may be malt vinegar or onion vinegar (the vinegar that pickled onions are stored in). Often something called "non-brewed condiment", which is actually a solution of acetic acid in water with caramel added for colour, is used as a substitute for genuine malt vinegar. In the US, malt vinegar (or, in some establishments, red-wine or cider vinegar) is often served with the combination as well. A common Canadian preference is for white vinegar on the chips and squeezed lemon on the fish. Scots also tend to prefer white vinegar to malt vinegar.
Scraps of batter that fall into the fat and cook (also known as scrumps or bits), and are usually included free on request.
Other popular dressings, usually at an extra charge, include:
- Curry sauce
- Tartar sauce
- Mayonnaise in Europe
- brown sauce
- Burger Sauce
- BBQ Sauce
- mushy peas
- Pickled onions, pickled eggs and gherkins.
Fish and chip shops
In the UK and Australasia, fish and chips are usually sold by independent restaurants and take-aways are colloquially known as chippies or chip shops in the UK1, or fish shops in Australia and New Zealand. Roughly about 25% of all the white fish consumed in the UK, and 10% of all potatoes, are sold through fish and chip outlets.
Fish and Chip shops themselves vary enormously all over the UK, from little back street affairs to posh 'Fish Restaurants', with seating and waitresses. It is also generally agreed that the best fish and chips are cooked in the northern half of the UK, and the east coast, or near ports with trawler fleets, such as Scarborough, Whitby, Skegness, Boston, Morecambe, Liverpool and Great Yarmouth.The Magpie Cafe in Whitby is particularly reknowned.
US fast food restaurant chains that sell fish and chips include Long John Silver's, Captain D's, H. Salt Fish and Chips , Arthur Treacher's, and, in the Pacific Northwest, Ivar's. In the 1990s, the perception within the United States that fish and chips were unhealthy led to a decline in consumption and the financial problems of Long John Silver's and Arthur Treacher's. These brands have been acquired by other restaurants and the current strategy of both of these chains appears to be combining fish and chips with other brands to create the concept of fun food. In Canada, the Harvey's and La Belle Province fast food chains sell fish and chips, although this is a minor item in their menus.
Fish and chip shops typically offer other fast food, which may be eaten in place of the traditional battered fish. Typical alternatives offered in most English "chippies" include:
- Pies - in varieties such as steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom , mince and onion, or cheese and onion. Many consider the best brand to be 'Pukka Pies'
- Sausages - usually pork, deep fried plain or in batter, or saveloys
- Fishcakes - usually fish and potatoes minced toagther and dipped in bread crumbs
Fish and chip shops sometimes sell other deep-fried foods, anything from chicken to fruit such as banana and pineapple; even Mars bars are served deep-fried (see Deep fried Mars bar), especially in Scotland. In Scotland the choice of alternatives includes haggis, black pudding, red pudding, and white pudding (all served thickly battered). In Australia, perhaps the most popular accompaniment is the potato scallop (called the 'potato cake' in Victoria, 'potato fritter' in South Australia and not to be confused with the sea scallop) a thick slice of potato deep fried in batter.
In Scotland and Northern England a meal of fish and chips is a fish supper. Similarly, in Scotland one can order a haggis supper, a steak pie supper, and so on.
Fish and chips were traditionally packaged with an inner white paper wrapping and an outer insulating layer of newspaper or blank newsprint, though nowadays the use of newspaper has largely ceased on grounds of hygiene, and food quality wrapping paper is often used instead, occasionally printed on the outside to emulate newspaper. Use of actual newspaper was banned in Australian fish and chip shops in the 1970s and butcher's paper was instead used as the external wrapping. Polystyrene packing, usual in many other kinds of take-away outlet, is sometimes substituted. Purists maintain that it "doesn't taste the same" in polystyrene or cardboard. In New Zealand, it remains common practise to use newspaper in the wrapping process.
- The term chippy as a noun is, depending upon the language; a fish-and-chip shop or a carpenter (British English) or a pejorative term for a prostitute in American English.
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