There are many foods which are traditionally British: roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, pie and mash and of course the great English breakfast fry-up. In What Makes Britain Great #6, we covered the Cornish pasty. Here in #9 I’ll tell you about my personal favourite;
9. Fish and Chips
Fish and chip shops serve all sorts of things these days – pies, sausages, burgers and even curry. The most popular meal is still it’s namesake though and if you’ve never had traditional British fish and chips from a proper fish and chip shop, you’ll probably be struggling to understand why this unhealthy meal maintains its popularity with us Brits. The truth is, it’s the way it’s prepared that makes it special;
The fish (usually cod, haddock or plaice) is coated in batter and then deep fried in hot oil. The crispiness of the batter is an indication of a quality fish and chip shop – soggy batter is to be avoided at all costs, and is often a sign that the fish has been sitting around for a while after it was cooked. The chips are also deep fried in hot oil and cooked in large quantities – again a soggy chip is an indication that it has been sitting waiting in the heated display for too long.
Once your fish is selected, and your chips have been shovelled into a paper bag, you will be asked if you would like salt and vinegar – this is an essential ingredient for a truly authentic experience. Pickles (onions, gherkins or eggs) can then be added and the whole lot will then be wrapped in paper (we used to use newspaper, but these days it is large printless sheets of paper). If you order more than one portion, each portion of fish will be wrapped separately together with the chips that accompany it and put in a bag for you to carry home.
If you find yourself walking past a fish and chip shop and fancy a snack, you don’t have to have a full meal. You can pop in for a bag of chips which will be prepared in an open bag or cone. In some parts of the country is is popular to serve them with cheese on top for a real calorie blowout! Wooden or plastic chip forks are provided so that you can either sit in the shop and eat your chips, or as is more common, take them with you on your journey and eat them on the way without getting your hands dirty.
One last thing – it may sound odd, but the crispy bits of batter that fall off the fish and end up at the bottom of the fryer, are a coveted delicacy. These tiny crispy mouthwatering morsels are truly delicious and you can often get them sprinkled on your chips free of charge if you ask nicely. Go on – have a try!