There are a several theories as to who invented chips. According to legend in Belgium, a Flemish housewife was one day unable to obtain fresh fish. At the time, the preferred types of fish for poor families was small river fish so she thought she would be able to cut up potatoes into the shape of the fish and fried those instead. There are others over the border in France that belief was that the French first created the chip, or frîte as it is known in locally. This is probably quite unlikely as the French themselves graciously admit that the chip is almost certainly Belgian.
Frying as a cooking method for fish has a much older history than that of frying of potatoes, simply because potatoes haven't been around as long. Deep-fried fish came to Northern Europe with the movements of Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain in the 17th century. Frying fish has proven to be a quick and simple way to cook white fish and a little light flouring of the surface results in a tempting crisp-coated final result.
- A match made in heaven: The coming together of deep-fried 'fish 'n' chips' as an inexpensive takeaway meal was, in fact, initiated by the English. The exact history of this is fairly clear. It was in London's East End that Joseph Malin opened what was almost certainly the first fish-and-chip shop in England in 1860. Fish and chips are an important part of the psyche of the Brits.
Did you know that fish and chips played a key role in nourishing the country during the Second World War and were one of the few foods not subject to rationing although a shortage of supplies meant that the Fish n Chip Shop opening hours were curtailed.
Fish and chips were traditionally wrapped in old newspaper. This thrifty custom that is still recalled when people refer to the press as "tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrapping". Sadly, on health grounds, chip shops haven't been allowed to use real newspaper since the 1980s when it was decided that the possible absorption of newsprint by the food wasn't a great idea.
There are lots of different ways to enjoy your fish and chips depending on where you are:
In Australia, we like to eat fish and chips with tomato or tartar sauce
In England, it is customary to eat fish and chips with malt vinegar
In Belgium they prefer to eat fish and chips with mayonnaise
In Scotland the tradition is to eat fish and chips with a brown sauce
In Denmark they like Remoulade sauce with their fish and chips.
So next time you tuck in to your fish and chips, remember this humble meal has some proud international origins.