The Foodish Boy’s Guide to Fish and Chips
Job two of 52, and I traveled back to my hometown of Leeds to learn the tricks of the trade at Atlantis Fish Shop. Fish and chips first appeared in the U.K. around 1860. A staple dish of the working class, it was a rare source of protein in a diet that consisted largely of bread, dripping, and tea. In fact, the dish became so important to the nation that it was the only takeaway food not to be rationed during World War II. Here's what to look out for...
Atlantis favors haddock over cod, but most shops offer both. The north of England tends to take the skin off; the south tends to leave the skin on. All good fish shops will cook your fish to order, so never settle for fish that's been sitting around in a cabinet.
Fact: 65 percent of the U.K. order cod as opposed to 35 percent for haddock.
The vast majority of U.K. fish shops use Maris Piper potatoes for chipping, as they have a soft texture resulting in crispness. Much bigger than the french fry, the thickness of a chip allows for a buttery center when fried and absorbs less fat in the cooking process. Chips are par-cooked, rested, and then fried for a golden finish.
Fact: Potatoes are nicknamed "spuds" after the long, flat tool used to dig them out.
Batter is made from flour, cold water, and baking powder. Most British fish shops can cook lightly battered fish for the health-conscious among you. However, for batter fanatics, ask for "scraps" with your meal. Scraps are the extra bits of batter that flake off during the frying process. Simply delicious. If you're ever in Scotland, look out for the infamous battered Mars bar!
Fact: Worried about the waistline? Some fish and chips have less fat, salt, and calories than certain cheese and tomato pizzas.
Most British chip shops offer mushy peas (simply mushed up peas) and curry sauce (a slightly sweet Chinese style curry). Northern parts of England also offer beef gravy. Condiments include vinegar, ketchup, and tartar sauce. You'll struggle to find a pepper shaker in most fish shops.
Fact: Michael Jackson loved mushy peas to accompany his fish and chips.
How and Where?
Leave it to the experts and stick to the local fish shop (recognizable as they only have one thing on the menu)! Anywhere else is just wrong. For the authentic experience, eat out of paper wrapping with your hands. Wash down with copious amounts of tea.
Fact: One in six people in the U.K. visit their local fish shop once a week.
Enjoyed fish and chips in the U.K. or even Stateside? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.
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