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Fish and chips (sometimes written "fish 'n' chips") is a popular take-away food which originated in the United Kingdommarker. It consists of deep-fried fish (traditionally cod, haddock or flounder) in batter or breadcrumbs with deep-fried chipped (slab-cut) potatoes.

Popular tradition associates the dish with the United Kingdom and Ireland; and fish and chips remains very popular in the UK and in areas colonised by British people in the 19th century, such as Australia, New Zealandmarker and parts of North America.


In the United Kingdommarker, fish and chips became a cheap food popular among the working classes with the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Seamarker in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1860 The first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Jewish proprietor Joseph Malin who married together "fish fried in the Jewish fashion" with chips.

Deep-fried "chips" (slices or pieces of potato) as a dish, may have first appeared in Britain in about the same period: the OED notes as its earliest usage of "chips" in this sense the mention in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities (published in 1859): "Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil". (Note that Belgian tradition, as recorded in a manuscript of 1781, dates the frying of potatoes carved into the shape of fish back at least as far as 1680.)

The modern fish-and-chip shop ("chippy" or "chipper" in modern British slang) originated in the United Kingdom, although outlets selling fried food occurred commonly throughout Europe. According to one story, fried-potato shops spreading south from Scotland merged with fried-fish shops spreading from southern England. Early fish-and-chip shops had only very basic facilities. Usually these consisted principally of a large cauldron of cooking-fat, heated by a coal fire. Insanitary by standards, such establishments also emitted a smell associated with frying, which led to the authorities classifying fish-and-chip supply as an "offensive trade", a stigma retained until the interwar period. The industry overcame this reputation because during World War II fish and chips remained one of the few foods in the United Kingdom not subject to rationing.

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Fish Labelling Regulations 2003 enact directive 2065/2001/EC and generally means that "fish" must be sold with the particular species named; so "cod and chips" not "fish and chips". The Food Standards Agency guidance excludes caterers from this; but several local Trading Standards authorities and others do say it cannot be sold merely as "fish and chips".


The dish became popular in wider circles in Londonmarker and South East England in the middle of the 19th century (Charles Dickens mentions a "fried fish warehouse" in Oliver Twist, first published in 1838) whilst in the north of England a trade in deep-fried "chipped" potatoes developed. The first chip shop stood on the present site of Oldhammarker's Tommyfield Market. It remains unclear exactly when and where these two trades combined to become the fish-and-chip shop industry we know . Joseph Malin opened the first recorded combined fish-and-chip shop in London in 1860 or in 1865, while a Mr Lees pioneered the concept in the North of England in Mossleymarker, Greater Manchestermarker in 1863.

The concept of a "Fish Restaurant" was introduced by Samuel Isaacs (born 1856 in Whitechapelmarker, London; died 1939 in Brightonmarker, Sussex) who ran a thriving wholesale and retail fish business throughout London and the South of England in the latter part of the 1800s. Isaacs' first restaurant opened in London in 1896 serving fish & chips, bread & butter and tea for nine pence, and its popularity ensured a rapid expansion of the chain. The restaurants were carpeted, had waited service, table cloths, flowers, china and cutlery, and made the trappings of upmarket dining affordable to the working classes for the first time. They were located in Tottenham Court Roadmarker, St. Pancras, The Strandmarker, Hoxtonmarker, Shoreditchmarker, Brixtonmarker and other London districts, as well as Clactonmarker, Brightonmarker, Ramsgatemarker, Margatemarker and other seaside resorts in southern England. Menus were expanded in the early 1900s to include meat dishes and other variations as their popularity grew to a total of thirty restaurants. Sam Isaacs' trademark was the phrase "This is the Plaice" combined with a picture of the punned fish in question. A glimpse of the old Brighton restaurant at No1 Marine Parade can be seen in the background of Norman Wisdom's 1955 film "One Good Turn" just as Norman/Pitkin runs onto the seafront. Coincidentally, this is now the site of Harry Ramsden's fish restaurant.


Dundeemarker City Council claims that " the 1870s, that glory of British gastronomy - the chip - was first sold by Belgian immigrant Edward De Gernier in the city’s Greenmarket."

Scotland made the transition to polystyrene containers later than some places.

In Edinburghmarker a combination of Gold Star brown sauce and water or malt vinegar, known either simply as "sauce", or more specifically as "chippie sauce", has great popularity.


In Ireland the first fish and chips were sold by an Italian immigrant, Giuseppe Servi, who had stepped off an America-bound ship at Cobhmarker and walked to Dublin. He started by selling fish and chips outside pubs from a handcart. He then found a permanent spot in Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Streetmarker. His wife Palma would ask customers "Uno di questa, uno di qualla?" This phrase (meaning "one of this, one of the other") entered the vernacular in Dublin as "one and one", which is still a common way of referring to fish and chips in the city.



Frying range
Traditional frying uses beef dripping or lard; however, vegetable oils, such as peanut oil (used due to its relatively high smoke-point) predominate. A minority of vendors in the north of Englandmarker and Scotland and the majority of vendors in Northern Ireland still use dripping or lard, as it imparts a different flavour to the dish, but it has the side-effect of making the fried chips unsuitable for vegetarians and for adherents of certain faiths. Lard continues in use in some other cases in the UK, especially in Living Industrial History Museums, such as the Black Country Living Museummarker.

In the UK, waste fat from fish and chip shops has become a useful source of biodiesel.


The British usually serve thicker slabs of potato than the "french fries" popularised by major multinational U.S. hamburger chains, resulting in a lower fat content per portion. In their homes or in non-chain restaurants, people in or from the U.S. may eat a thicker type of chip, called "home fries" or "steak fries".

Cooking fat penetrates a relatively shallow depth into the potato during cooking, thus the surface area reflects the fat content proportionally. Thick chips have a smaller surface area per unit weight than French fries and thus absorb less oil per weight of potato. Chips also require a somewhat longer cooking time than fries.

Despite the differences in terminology, the combination of strips of potato flesh served hot with fish still has the name "fish and chips" in most U.S. restaurants which serve the dish, but a few U.S. restaurants will offer "crisps" instead of "fries" when a consumer orders "fish and chips".


UK chippies sometimes use beer or milk batter, where they substitute for water. The carbon dioxide in the beer lends a lighter texture to the batter, and also an orange colour. A simple batter might consist of a 2:3 ratio of flour to beer by volume. The type of beer makes the batter taste different: some prefer lager whereas other use stout and bitter. In all cases, the alcohol itself is cooked off, so little or none remains in the finished product.

Choice of fish

In Britain and Ireland, haddock and cod appear most commonly as the fish used for fish and chips,but vendors also sell many other kinds of fish, especially other white fish, such as pollock or coley; plaice; skate (called "ray" in Ireland, where it is popular); and huss or rock salmon (a term covering several species of now endangered dogfish and similar fish). In some areas of southwestern and northern England, and throughout the vast majority of Scotland, haddock predominates. Indeed, in one part of West Yorkshire, the area between Bradfordmarker, Halifaxmarker and Keighleymarker known as the "Haddock Triangle", very few shops offer cod on their menu. In Northern Ireland, cod, plaice or whiting appear most commonly in "fish suppers". Suppliers in Devonmarker and Cornwallmarker regularly offer pollock and coley as cheap alternatives to haddock due to their regular availability in a common catch. As a cheap, nutritious, savoury and common alternative to a whole piece of fish, fish-and-chips shops around the UK supply small battered rissoles of compressed cod roe.

Australians prefer reef-cod (a different variety from that used in the United Kingdom) or flake, a type of shark meat, in their fish and chips, although having shark in some places may be illegal, due to some members of the species being endangered. . In recent years, farmed basa imported from Vietnam has also become common in Australian fish and chip shops. Actor Ted Danson criticized all of Britain's fish and chips, saying that they used meat from the rare and endangered spiny dogfish. He also claimed that spiny dogfish used to be a plentiful world species, but now, due to overfishing, they are very rare and on the endangered species list.


In the United Kingdom, free salt and vinegar is traditionally sprinkled over fish and chips at the time it is served. Suppliers may use malt vinegar or onion vinegar (the vinegar used for pickling onions). A cheaper product called "non-brewed condiment" (actually a solution of acetic acid in water with caramel colour) substitutes for genuine malt vinegar in many fish-and-chip shops.


In the United Kingdom and in Australia and North America fish-and-chips usually sell through independent restaurants and take-aways. Outlets range from small affairs to chain restaurants. Locally-owned seafood restaurants are also popular in many local markets. In the United Kingdom, punning names for the shops, such as "The Batter Plaice", "Assault and Battery", "The Codfather", "Sir Crickets Fish n' Chips" and "The Frying Scotsman" often occur. Fish-and-chip outlets sell roughly 25% of all the white fish consumed in the United Kingdom, and 10% of all potatoes.

The existence of numerous competitions and awards for "best fish-and-chip shop" testifies to the recognised status of this type of outlet in popular culture.

Fish-and-chip shops traditionally wrapped their product in an inner layer of white paper (for hygiene) and an outer layer of newspaper or blank newsprint (for insulation and to absorb grease), though the use of newspaper has largely ceased on grounds of hygiene, and establishments often use food-quality wrapping paper instead— occasionally printed on the outside to emulate newspaper. In Northern Ireland, fish and chip meals once came wrapped solely with a couple of layers of newspaper, but concerns over ink poisoning (especially relating to the use of lead type in newspaper production) meant the phasing out of this practice. Printing industry workers, however, state that modern newspaper-inks pose no such health risk.

Fish-and-chip shops typically offer other hot fast food which customers may eat in place of the traditional battered fish.

The British National Federation of Fish Friers was founded in 1913. It promotes fish and chips and offers training courses.

Cultural impact

The long-standing Roman Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Friday - especially during Lent - and of substituting fish for other types of meat on that day - continues to influence habits even in predominantly Protestant, semi-secular and secular societies. Friday night remains a traditional occasion for patronising fish-and-chip shops; and many cafeterias and similar establishments, while varying their menus on other days of the week, habitually offer fish and chips every Friday.

See also


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