Fish and chips, you can hardly get more British than that, and great fish and chips are the best thing you could imagine! Fresh fish, firm and full of flavour, coated in a crispy light batter, accompanied by chips which are meltingly soft and flavoursome on the inside and like the fish crisp on the outside, not cut too thinly, and for me I like mushy peas with loads of white pepper – not black, but white.
My first experience of fish and chips from a chip shop was when I used to go with my sister and friend to our swimming club in Cambridge. My dad would take us and on the way back from training we would stop at a chip shop on Newmarket Road and dad would buy us each a bag of chips.. unwrapping the newspaper which wrapped them and unfolding the grease-proof paper revealed the fat greasy salty chips… almost too hot to eat because they were straight out of the fryer which in those days must have been filled with beef dripping; these days no doubt, it is cooking oil.
Restaurants, cafés and pubs serve fish and chips, but the traditional place to get them from is a fish and chip shop… obviously! Chip shops are often called chippies, and serve other things as well as the fish (haddock, cod, pollack and other white fish) such as sausages – sometimes coated in batter, chicken, pies and even burgers. In the north of England, chip butties are popular (chip sandwich or chips in a bun) and when I first went to Manchester I was interested in and then addicted to ‘scraps’ – the little crispy bits of batter which had fallen off the fish. I’m not sure if you can still get scraps, but they were free or only cost a few pence. You could also get potato scallops which were thick slices of potato dipped in batter and deep-fried, I guess for many people they were a cheaper alternative to battered fish.
Talking of deep-fried, some chippies batter and deep fry anything, sausages, burgers, haggis, Mars bars, you name it, it gets battered! Many people (but not me) like chippy gravy, a special sort of gluey gravy on their chips; it has a particular distinctive flavour all of its own, as does curry sauce which form a chippy tastes nothing like the curry you might get from an Asian restaurant.