Few things feel as English as fish and chips. At Grico’s South, we offer this classic meal on our bar menu for those who want to feel like they’ve taken a trip across the pond when they sit down at our bar for a drink. However, while many people associate the dish with England and the seaside, this isn’t actually where it originated from. Fish and chips is a delicious fried dish and comfort food that has a much longer history than you might expect.
How, exactly, did this iconic meal come to be associated with England? Learn more about the history of fish and chips and where it came from.
Where Did Fish and Chips First Come From?
Despite what many might assume, fish and chips wasn’t created in England. It’s often believed that the dish originally came from Portugal and Spain. Fried fish has long been a popular dish in Jewish communities, including in Portugal and Spain. As cooking isn’t allowed on the Sabbath, frying battered fish on Friday to eat cold on Saturday was a common practice that Jewish immigrants would later bring to England.
When Did Chips Become Popular with Fish?
Chips, or french fries, as we know them, seem like only a natural thing to eat with fried fish. However, they haven’t always been served alongside one another. Many people believe that it was the Belgians who originally started frying potatoes. Belgians also have a history of frying fish, but some claim that during an especially cold winter in 1680, which caused the water to freeze over and made fishing impossible, they began frying potatoes instead. However, some also believe that it was the French who were the first to make fries.
Prior to chips, you would likely find bread or baked potatoes served with fried fish in England.
How Did Fish and Chips Become Popular?
While people had been frying fish and potatoes for centuries, it’s widely believed that the fish and chip shop, or a chippy, in England wasn’t opened until 1860. England’s first fish and chip shop is often credited to Joseph Malin, a young Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, although fried fish warehouses also already existed at this time. Malin opened his fish and chip shop in London and another early fish and chip shop was opened by John Lees around the same time near Manchester.
At the peak of fish and chip shops, it’s believed that there were over 30,000 across England and there are only around 10,000 today. Many of the fish and chip shops in the 19th and 20th centuries were small, family-run businesses and the families often lived above the shops. Fish and chips became such a beloved English dish that it was one of the few foods the country didn’t ration during World War II to help boost morale.
If you’ve ever enjoyed fish and chips before, you know that it’s easy to understand why this dish became so popular. However, there were a few key factors that helped it take off as it did. First, developments in fishing that allowed fishermen to catch more fish made it more affordable to people of all classes. Developments in transportation also helped make fish more accessible to those who lived and cities and other areas away from the coast. Ice machines allowed fish to be stored for longer periods of time, which made it easier to transport long distances and prevent it from going bad.
Order Fish and Chips at the Bar at Grico’s South
At Grico’s South, we make our fish and chips using fried haddock and serve the dish with malt vinegar aioli and a lemon wedge. Fish and chips is the perfect meal to enjoy at the bar, but we have plenty of other choices on our bar menu.
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