Fish and chips

Fish and chips in wrapping paper
Fish and chips in wrapping paper

Fish and chips is deep-fried fish in batter with deep-fried potatoes, and a popular take-away food. Fish and chips is the national dish of 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 vegetable oil, which imparts a different taste to the dish, but is acceptable to vegetarians. Some maintain that the best types of potatoes to use for chips are 'Lincolnshire Whites' or 'Maris Piper'.

The pronunciation of fish and chips is a traditional method of distinguishing Australians and New Zealanders (a Shibboleth; see also New Zealand English).



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.

During World War II, fish and chips were one of the few foods that were not rationed in the UK.

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; plaice, 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. Snoek (Thyrsites atun) is also popular in Cape coastal areas. 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. In Australia the use of chicken flavoured salt (known as chicken salt) is quite widespread on chips, that even fast food chains like KFC no longer carry regular salt and use chicken salt by default.

Scraps of batter that fall into the fat and cook (also known as scrumps or bits) are usually included free on request.

Other popular dressings, usually at an extra charge, include:

Around Edinburgh in Scotland a combination of spirit vinegar and brown sauce, known simply as "sauce", is popular.

Around the Great Lakes (for example, in Buffalo, New York), the popular tradition of Catholics eating fish on Fridays (especially during Lent has resulted in a codifying of a particular sort of "Fish Fry", which includes a piece of whitefish (often Haddock), a plentiful amount of french fries (generally thicker-cut "steak" fries), potato salad and/or macaroni salad, and coleslaw. This is so ubiquitous that some supermarkets in the area sell it from their seafood departments, and many local bars serve fish fries every week.

Fish and chip shops

Missing image
A fish and chip shop in Oxford.

In the UK and Australasia, fish and chips are usually sold by independent restaurants and take-aways, colloquially known as chippies or chip shops in the UK1, or fish and chips shops in Australia and New Zealand. Occasionally, in these two countries, the term "Fish and Chippery" is used by stores, and outlets likewise range from small affairs to the likes of the famed Doyles at Watson's bay in Sydney. Roughly 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 in the UK, from little back street affairs to posh "Fish Restaurants", with seating and waitresses. There is one well-known chain based in the north of England called Harry Ramsden's but chains are uncommon in the UK. The company originated in Guiseley near Leeds. UK fish and chip shops sometimes combine with sales of other takeaway food products, such as burgers, chinese food and pizzas, but by far the most common such shop simply sells fish and chips, their traditional accompaniments, and little else, although in fishing towns it is also common for fish and chip shops to sell uncooked fish.

Missing image
Fried fish and french fries on the waterfront in San Diego.

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.

Other dishes

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:

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. Another common accompaniment is an Australian version of Chinese dumplings known locally as a dim sim and an Australian version of a spring roll called the Chiko Roll. An increasing number of stores in Australia may also deal in Dner kebabs.

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; supper means "with chips", in this context.

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.

Missing image
A city-centre chip shop in Oxford.


  1. 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.

External links

Template:Cookbookde:Fish and Chips ja:フィッシュ・アンド・チップス nl:Fish and chips nn:Fish and chips no:Fish and chips zh:炸鱼薯条 zh-min-nan:Chⁿ h kap chips


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