You Are What You Eat: Fish & Chips
Fish and Chips is an Irish institution in every sense of the word, there is no other dish quite like freshly cooked, piping hot battered fish, chips smothered in salt and lashed with vinegar, wrapped in newspaper, eaten at the seaside on a summer’s day
Get ready to dive into a timeless classic with a crispy twist! Originating from the bustling streets of Britain, this iconic dish has gained worldwide fame for its irresistible combination of tender, flaky fish and golden, crunchy chips that never fails to satisfy. The succulent fish usually consists of battered and fried white fish in a light and crispy batter, served with thick sliced well seasoned potato chips and often a dollop tartar sauce, with a wedge of lemon and mushy peas on the side.
In this article, get ready to savour the comforting flavours of this beloved culinary tradition as we explore the intriguing Italian heritage linked to the iconic dish, the launch of the fish and chip industry in Ireland, sustainable fishing, nutritional benefits of white fish, and culinary applications of how to make incredible fish and chips at home.
Italian heritage – Guiseppe Cervi
The history of fish and chips in Dublin is actually a very interesting story, one that dates back to the 1800s. Giuseppe Cervi, an Italian migrant stepped off an American-bound boat in Cobh, and kept walking until he reached Dublin. He worked as a labourer until he earned enough money to buy a coal-fired cooker and a hand-cart, from which he sold chips outside pubs. Soon after, he found a permanent shop on Great Brunswick St – now Pearse Street, and began selling fish and chips with his wife Palma. By 1909, there were 20 fish and chip shops in Dublin, serving a population of only 290,000.
The Revolution of “The Chipper”
Ingrained in Irish culinary culture, fish and chips quickly became a popular national dish in Ireland, particularly among working-class people, as it was cheap, convenient, and filling and could be found at fancy restaurants, casual cafes, and takeaways also known as ‘chippies’ all over the country.
Originally served in a wrapping of old newspapers, this practice has now largely ceased, with plain paper, cardboard boxes used instead.
Sustainability, Transparency & Traceability
Fish sustainability, transparency and traceability are crucial aspects of the fishing industry that aim to ensure responsible and ethical practices while preserving marine ecosystems. It encompasses a range of considerations, including the conservation of fish stocks, protection of habitats, responsible fishing methods, and the well-being of fishing communities. Choosing local and seasonal fish, asking questions about the origin and fishing methods, and supporting businesses committed to sustainable seafood practices contribute to the overall goal of promoting fish sustainability, transparency and traceability.
Nutritional Benefits and Beyond: Brain Food
Fish is a low-fat high quality protein and contains a naturally high level of Omega-3 fatty acids. There are quite a few potential health benefits to eating fish and chips, for one the dish is high in protein which can help build and maintain muscle mass and the other, is that it is high in omega-3 fatty acids which is linked to numerous health benefits, including a reduction in inflammation, improved cognitive function, and a decrease in cardiovascular disease. Compared to larger, predatory fish, white fish typically have lower levels of mercury and other environmental contaminants.
Exploring the culinary world of Fish & Chip
Fish: The most common fish used for fish and chips is Cod. Cod has a mild, flaky texture that works well with the crispy batter and complements the overall taste of the dish. Another popular fish option is haddock. Haddock has a slightly stronger flavour compared to Cod but still retains a delicate and flaky texture. Other types of white fish that are occasionally used include plaice, pollock, whiting, sole and hake.
Batter: The batter used in fish and chips is a crucial component that adds a crisp and golden coating to the fish. It helps protect the fish while frying and provides a delightful texture contrast to the tender flesh inside. A simple adaptable water, flour, starch and seasoning mixture is the key to a light, crunchy, crispy piece of fried fish. My secret ingredient is cornflour for extra crispness and a pinch of turmeric for colour. A good batter needs to have the right consistency, too thick and floury and you’ll end up with a chewy tough result, too thin and it wont stick to the fish.
Chips: A thick-cut deep fried potato is a classic accompaniment to a crispy golden fish. A floury potato like a King Edward or Maris Piper I find works best for my epic homemade chunky chips. Firstly, I start by parboiling my peeling the potatoes and slicing them into thick cut chips and then coat them in rapeseed oil, smoked paprika, Irish sea salt, onion and garlic powder and pop them in the airfryer, once they are piping hot I lash them with more Irish sea salt and malt vinegar.
Condiments: The classic combination of battered fish and crispy chips is often accompanied by a variety of condiments that enhance the flavours and add a delightful touch to the meal. From tangy and creamy to spicy and zesty, there are numerous condiments that pair perfectly with fish and chips. Some popular options include; creamy and tangy tartare sauce, classic ketchup, aromatic curry sauce.
Several factors contribute to the key elements of a good fish and chips dish, quality ingredients, a crispy batter, proper frying techniques, seasoning and texture, accompaniments, timing and freshness!