Spend any time on the internet, and you’ll soon discover threads of people attacking the British for their ‘questionable’ cuisine. And sure, it might not be most people’s favorite. But fish and chips is surely the exception to the rule.
As famous and quintessentially British as this meal is, there are loads of unexpected facts about fish and chips. Ready to have your mind blown? Let’s dive in!
1. The first fish and chip shop in England opened in 1860.
You thought it was older than that, didn’t you? Well, it isn’t. Joseph Malin opened the first fish and chip shop in Oldham, Lancashire.
2. Chips were invented as a substitute for fish.
In Britain, “chips” are what Americans call “fries”. But that’s only half the story.
The reason why they’re called chips and not fries is because fries are typically much chunkier in the U.K. And that’s because they were a substitute for fried fish when rivers froze and catching fish was near impossible.
3. Jewish refugees introduced the idea of fried fish to Britain.
Ashkenazi Jews brought their methods of frying fish coated in flour to the U.K when they fled persecution in Spain and Portugal during the 16th century.
4. There are fish and chip awards in the U.K.
The fish and chip shop awards have been running for over 30 years (apart from during the 2020 pandemic).
In 2021, there were 16 categories that fish and chip shops up and down the country competed in, including Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award and The Good Catch Award (Seafood Sustainability).
In case you’re interested, the 2021 National Winner was The Cod’s Scallops, in Nottinghamshire.
5. Parents in New Zealand lost a legal battle to name their twins “Fish” and “Chips”.
According to QI, astonishing names that were accepted include “Number 16 Bus Shelter” and “Violence”.
6. By 1910, there were 25,000 fish and chip shops in the U.K.
By 1929, there were 10,000 more.
7. Fish and chip shops outnumber McDonalds restaurants 10 to 1.
And that’s despite Filet-O-Fish and fries being on the menu.
8. National fish and chip day is 4 June.
This was only recognized in 2015 and was supposedly created to create awareness of the fishing and oil industries in Britain.
9. Friday is the most popular day to eat fish and chips.
Nobody’s quite sure why – and no, it has nothing to do with there being a “Fri” in Friday. Speculation suggests that it goes back to the Christian tradition of avoiding meat on Fridays, in accordance with Catholicism.
10. The Daily Mail once reported that half of Britain’s cats and dogs are fed fish and chips every week, leading to a pet obesity crisis.
The source is unclear, so just like your chips, this statistic should be taken with a pinch of salt.
However, as a cat owner I can say that both of my cats are more interested in the box the fish and chips comes in than the content. Also, don’t feed your pets fish and chips – the oil content is extremely dangerous for them!
11. You can buy fish and chip flavored potato chips in the U.K.
Potato chips in Britain are referred to as crisps. And for people who only have time for a quick snack but are craving fish and chips, there are fish and chip flavored potato chips available in U.K supermarkets such as Tesco.
12. “Fish and chips” is Cockney rhyming slang for “hips”.
As a Brit, I often wonder why Cockney rhyming slang is so complicated. I mean, “fish and chips” takes longer to say than “hips”, doesn’t it? Weird.
13. Fish and chips has featured in many British comedy sketches, such as Gavin & Stacey.
Brits love “relatable” comedy and easily recognize themselves in situations such as having a complicated fish and chips order!
14. Some Britons eat their fish and chips in sandwiches.
I have to say, I find the idea of this abominable. However, I have seen people put chips in sandwiches and have been offered many “fish finger sandwiches” that I have politely declined. If the idea appeals to you, however, you know where to go!
15. In Australia, fish and chips is the 4th most popular takeaway.
Australians love their fish and chips too, though it turns out not quite as much as Brits.
16. There is an ongoing battle about which sauce should accompany fish and chips in the U.K.
This debate can get quite heated and mainly comes down to geography.
In the south of England, people generally prefer to dip their chips in curry sauce. Northerners prefer gravy. Vinegar is widely used all over the U.K and fish and chips served in restaurants is often paired with Tartare sauce. Confusing, I know.
17. There is a fish and chip shsop van in Japan called “Bonnie Blue” that sells deep fried Snickers.
In many Scottish fish and chip shops, it’s common to find deep fried Mars bars on the menu. Since Japan doesn’t have Mars bars, the Scottish owner settled for Snickers bars instead.
18. Fish and chips weren’t rationed during WWII.
Supposedly, it was believed that an abundance of fish and chips would be good for morale.
19. The average portion of fish and chips in the U.K has 800 calories.
Good to know that an occasional fish and chips won’t hurt the scales too much.
20. In Sweden, fish and chips are served with breadcrumbs instead of batter.
Otherwise known as “panerad fisk”, breadcrumbs are lighter than batter. However, some English pubs in Sweden offer traditionally prepared fish and chips.
21. The most common fish used for Australian fish and chips is New Zealand Hoki.
In the U.K, where fancy, exotic fish isn’t abundant, cod and haddock are most common.
22. It is believed that the first fish and chip shop opened in Australia in 1873.
Doyle’s seafood restaurant has been serving fish and chips in Sydney since the 1880s.
23. In some parts of Canada and the U.S, fish and chips is referred to as “Fish Fry”.
An interesting nickname that doesn’t have a clear origin, although the clue is probably in the name: the fish is fried.
24. The most expensive fish and chips in the U.K can be purchased at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant for £61.50.
I haven’t tried it so I can’t recommend it, but personally, fish and chips that cost that much should probably be served on a golden platter.
25. Glaswegians are the most likely Britons to order pickled eggs with their fish and chips.
If you’ve never been to a British fish and chips shop, you might be surprised that pickled eggs feature on the menu. They’re usually kept in large jars on the counter. They freaked me out as a kid. Apparently, Glaswegians don’t share my fear!
26. Queen Elizabeth II reportedly prefers her fish served with a panko pastry.
Of course The Queen prefers a fancier variety of fish and chips, but isn’t it nice to imagine a bottle of vinegar on the table in Buckingham Palace?
27. Adele, one of Britain’s most iconic celebrities, doesn’t order fish from the fish and chip shop.
Apparently, Adele favors a battered sausage.
28. Fish and chips were served at Olympic venues during the 2012 London Olympics.
McDonalds conceded that they wouldn’t have a total monopoly on selling fries, agreeing that it would be wrong to starve local businesses the chance at capitalizing on British classics.
29. On average, Britons eat a massive 382 million fish and chip meals every year.
Northern Ireland are the most loyal fish and chips buyers, with Friday being the most popular day to eat them.
30. A survey in 2019 found around four in every five British people said that they visit a fish and chip shop at least once a year.
Perhaps this is the least surprising fact of all of them, but it really is astonishing to imagine that a meal could be so beloved in the public’s imagination that the majority can’t resist it.