A National Treasure
There is nothing nicer than a portion of fish and chips. Like Morecambe and Wise, they are an iconic double act, so it’s no wonder that 90%* of us eat this mouth-watering dish regularly from a fish and chip shop.
“Fish and chips are an important part of our nation’s history and culture and have a truly special place in the heart of Brits,” says Andy Gray, trade marketing manager at Seafish.
But what about the regional differences? Cod or haddock? Curry or gravy? How fish and chips are made or served does vary depending on geography.Take Stock investigated what makes this dish a national treasure…
A winning team
Krispies Fish & Chips from Exmouth, Devon took the title of the UK’s best fish and chip shop at the National Fish & Chip Awards 2019, organised by Seafish. Krispies is owned and operated by husband and wife team Kelly and Tim Barnes who believe the secret to good fish and chips is to have the best quality ingredients, to look after your oil and train your staff well. Cod is the shop’s best seller, and when it comes to sides it’s curry sauce all the way – along with their homemade tartare sauce. “We also sell battered chips!” says Tim. “They are extremely popular and have become our unique selling point. The battered chips originated from the Black Country and the previous owners only sold those chips, so we decided to brand them and make them special!”
Cod or haddock?
It’s the constant battle – cod or haddock? According to a survey by Seafish, cod is predominantly the number one fish in England – although haddock is the first choice in parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Wales and Scotland. “Haddock is the fish traditionally synonymous with Scotland, and we have four sizes of it available: 8oz, 5oz, 4oz and 2.5oz – all are popular,” explains David Low, owner of Low’s Traditional Fish and Chips in Westhill, Aberdeenshire which took third place in the National Fish & Chip Awards 2019. “With the Peterhead Fish Market on our doorstep, our customers expect nothing less than fresh haddock.”
How do you eat yours?
“It is reassuring that as a nation we still love to eat our fish and chips the old fashioned way with plenty of salt, vinegar and mushy peas,” says Andy Gray. “However, it’s clear that there are some interesting variations on how people eat their fish and chips depending on where they live – it’s with curry sauce in Birmingham, tomato ketchup in Newcastle and gravy in Manchester!”
•Belfast: eats the most cod (81% of respondents prefer cod) and is top for splashing on vinegar (80%). People in Belfast eat fish and chips most often (54% enjoying it at least once a month)
•Birmingham: adds more curry sauce than any other city surveyed (43%)
•Newcastle: biggest fans of eating from the paper/box; top for both tomato ketchup (40%) and eating by the seaside (37%)
•Manchester: number one for adding mushy peas (66%) and gravy (29%)
•Cardiff: most frequent salt users (89%) and like Glaswegians, love eating fish and chips on the way home from the pub
•Edinburgh: nearly half of respondents (45%) eat on the couch in front of the TV favouring salt ‘n’ sauce (45%)
You want what?
Orange chips – native to the Black Country, chips are dipped in an orange coloured batter before being fried
Yorkshire fish cake – this ‘cake’ has two slices of potato with a piece of white fish in the middle, covered in batter and deep-fried
White pudding – a favourite across Ireland and Scotland, white pudding is deep fried inside a crispy batter coating
Rag pudding/rag-pie – invented in Oldham, the former northern mill town, the dish consists of minced meat and onions wrapped in a suet pastry, which is then cooked in a cheesecloth
Pizza crunch – unique to Glasgow, this dish includes a pizza which has been battered and then deep fried
Saveloy dip – this north east staple is a smoked sausage sandwich which is dipped in gravy or fat, before being covered in stuffing, mustard and pease pudding (a local spread made from split peas)
Cod roe – it looks like your standard fishcake, but it is actually a dish made from the ripe internal egg masses of fish or sea urchins, served in Weston-Super-Mare and the Midlands
Smack barm pea wet – a native of Wigan, ‘smack’ is a dish of battered, fried potato and ‘pea-wet’ – the juice that comes off mushy peas
Deep-fried Mars bar – invented in Scotland but now a famous novelty world wide. The chocolate bar is usually chilled before battering to prevent it from melting in the fryer
What to drink
According to Seafish, Irn Bru and Coca-Cola are the favourite fizzy drinks to have with fish and chips, with a cup of tea still the top beverage. Low’s fish and chip shop have just added a Tango Ice Blast – a fizzy iced crystal dink – which is causing quite a stir. “They are very popular, but not many shops have them, so I have customers travelling for miles to come and get one!” says owner David.
“It is an interesting trend that many fish and chip shops now offer a range of portion sizes to suit all different types of customer,” explains Andy Gray. “Whether customers want to share a jumbo size with the family or prefer their own lunchtime light bite, fish and chip shops are now heading in the direction of other takeaway food channels by grasping the opportunity of promoting a lunchtime trade that often demands smaller portions – or at least a good choice of different portion sizes.”
The ‘healthy’ takeaway
Fish and chips contain no additional sugars or preservatives. In its simplest form, it’s just straight up fish, potatoes, and flour and water for the batter! The fish is a great source of protein and also contains other vitamins and minerals such as omega 3 and vitamin D, diners get some carbohydrate from the potatoes and if they add a side of mushy peas, then that’s one of their recommended 5 a day.