Fish And Chips: Is This British Comfort Food Really 'British'?
Image Credit: Fish and chips is a classic British dish.

Fish and chips in today’s food scene needs no introduction. The gift from the Great Britain has been embraced by the world like nothing else. Picture a slab of crispy battered fish served over a bed of chips or fries and tartar sauce; doesn’t it make you slurp a little? Fish is my personal favourite when it comes to seafood and while I love to devour a plateful of grilled fish doused in creamy white sauce, the crunch and crisp of fish and chips gets the better of each time I see it on a restaurant menu. It isn’t Britain’s comfort food just like that after all! But did you know how the classic fish and chips came into being?

Legend has it, that the dish goes back close to 200 years ago when it first appeared in the United Kingdom in the 1860s, which might have come from the Western Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Portugal. As per most common beliefs, the Sephardic Jews fled from Portugal when Portugal fell under Spanish rule. The Inquisition targeted individuals with Jewish lineage, and as the religious violence worsened the Sephardic Jews left Portugal to various parts of Europe with many of them settling in England, where they brought their rich culinary traditions with them.

As per their traditions, cooking is not allowed on the Jewish Sabbath (Shabbat), which begins on Friday night and ends on Saturday evening with sunset. So Sephardic Jewish families would prepare food on Friday afternoon that would last for the next 24 hours. One of those dishes was a white fish, mostly cod, fried in a thin coat of flour. The batter not only preserved the fish so it could be eaten cold but also retained flavour for the next day. This dish was a hit amongst people as Jews started to sell fried fish on the streets from trays hung from their necks. This soon spread across United Kingdom with fried fish taking over the streets of London by 19th Century.  

While this was about fried fish, as far as the addition of chips to the dish is concerned, it isn’t fully known as to how it happened. But as per food historians, by 1860 United Kingdom had the very first fish and chips shops, with the first ‘chippy’ in London. Did you know that by 1910 there were close to 25,000 fish and chip shops in the U.K. and they even stayed open during World War I?  

Over the years, the dish has gained much popularity around the world with almost every continental restaurant having it on the menu. Noshing upon a combination of batter-fried fish, some potato fried on the side, served with tartar sauce is a joy unmatched! But did you know you can easily make it at home too just like the Jews?  

Find the full recipe of fish and chips here. Try it at home and share your experience with us.