Fish and Chips

A great British tradition and, until recently, Britain’s most popular takeaway food. 

The popularity of Fish & Chips can be traced back to two innovations in the mid 19th century, the development of trawler fishing in the North Sea – which meant more fish were being landed than previously – and the growth of the railways – which meant that fish could be quickly transported inland. 

A number of towns in the north of England lay claim to being the birthplace of the modern ‘chippy’, while Guisely in Leeds saw the creation of “Harry Ramsden’s Fish and Chip Palace” in 1931. These days Harry Ramsden’s is an international franchise with over 150 outlets globally.

Fish & Chips was one of the few foods not subject to rationing after the second world war, and it became a tradition for Friday night ‘fish suppers’. 


The most popular fish is either Haddock or Cod, but other fish can be served, including Skate (a small member of the ray family) and ‘Rock Eel’ (or ‘Huss’) –  a small member of the shark family. Traditional English chips are considerably thicker than those sold in most fast food restaurants, being closer to ‘steak fries’ served in the US. In the south of England the frying is usually in vegetable oil, while further north, and in Scotland they tend to use animal fat – known as ‘dripping’.

‘Fish & Chips’ is usually purchased at local chip shops (chippies), either ‘open’ for immediate consumption or wrapped in paper for home consumption. While the outer layers of paper might still be traditional newspaper, the inner wrappings are plain white paper for health reasons.

Accompaniments for Fish & Chips include peas (Mushy peas in the north of England – imagine refried beans but made with green peas), pickled onions and dill pickle (known as a ‘Wally’ in the London area).

Other foods available in chip shops are usually meat pies (Steak & Kidney, Chicken & Mushroom or  Meat and Potato (in the north of England)), sausage (often dipped in batter) or Saveloy – a large lurid pink savoury sausage – not unlike a large Frankfurter.

 In Scotland in recent years there has been a trend towards deep frying confectionery – such as Mars Bars – in batter. Surely a heart attack special!