The history behind fish and chips

Fish and chps

Fish and chips is inarguably the definitive national dish of the United Kingdom. How this dish, which features a New World ingredient, became the emblematic meal is explained in a new book by Panikos Panayi. As The Telegraph reports, the book delves deep into historical writings to find out how fish and chips became so popular. 

The chips part of the equation receives first mention in 1859 in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, but the fried fish portion goes back much farther, to the mid-1500s. Panayi's book explores writings dating back to 1544, where Manuel Brudo notes "that the favourite diet of Marrano refugees" (fleeing from the Inquisition) "was fried fish, sprinkled with flour, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs." The references continue through the 1700s and 1800s, when potatoes hit the scene. 

Fried fish and chipped (or sometimes jacket) potatoes were sold separately before that time, and the merger between the two items was a gradual affair. Many Britons didn't eat much fish until the railways made transport more practical. Potatoes were luxury items until the 18th century, when they became available to all classes. Panayi credits Joseph Malin, an Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant, who opened a shop in Bow in 1860 as being the first to offer fish and chips as a package. Continue reading to find out the class implications of the dish and why providing fish and chips to the British people has been a means of upward social mobility.

In the meantime, you can feast on your own fish and chips with these recipes from the EYB Library:

Fish and chips with pea puree and tartare sauce from Observer Food Monthly Magazine by Tom Kerridge(pictured at top)
Traditional fish and chips from indexed blog Great British Chefs by Josh Eggleton
Fish and chips with pea purée from Delicious Magazine (UK) by Joy Skipper and Joy Alison May
The perfect… fish and chips from Masterchef Australia by Gary Mehigan


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