That great Portuguese Jewish tradition …. Fish and Chips

For generations fish and chips has been enjoyed everywhere in the world. It seems as though it has always been around. The fish and chips we are familiar with today got their start in the mid 1800s in Great Britain. Since that time the term has becomes a cliché for Britain especially if they were served wrapped in newspaper.

The thought is that Jews from Portugal brought the recipe for the fish to Britain in the 16th century when they started to flee persecution. There are a number of recipes from Jewish cooking that include fried and lightly battered. The meal was quite common following service since it was very easy to prepare and it could also be served cold.

The first notation of fish and chips was in A Tale of Two Cities, the famous Charles Dickens novel published in 1859. Some British cooks even cut their potatoes into fish shapes for their dinners on Friday if their husbands did not have any luck that day fishing. The potato would then be fried for dinner with this tradition coming over from Belgium dating all the way back to the late 1600s.

Fish and chips became a common meal when trawl fishing became popular. A frequent meal for the working class, in 1860 it was recorded in London they opened the first fish and chip shop. Joseph Malin was the owner and he prepared his recipes for fish with potatoes and the legend was born. Today there is a blue plaque that commemorates the exact spot of the original shop.

Battered fish is the traditional form of fish and chips with a traditional batter of flour and water. A little vinegar and baking soda are added to make the batter have bubbles thus making it lighter. Also commonly used are milk batter and beer batter. In Ireland and Great Britain you mostly find haddock or cod as the fish of choice. There are other types and they include plaice, pollock and skate.

Australia uses shark, reef cod and barramundi for their fish and chips. While across the way New Zealand will often use shark or snapper. In the US often you find halibut, cod, tilapia and flounder.