Fish and chips have been the consummate working class comfort food in Great Britain since the second half of the 19th century. Jewish businessman Joseph Malin opened up the first fish and chip shop in London, in 1860. Supposedly, Malin developed it as a hybrid between British chips and “Jewish style” fried fish. This food phenomenon spread through other parts of Europe, as well as New Zealand. It is no accident that fish and chips are one of the most popular takeaway items in New Zealand’s robust restaurant culture. At Dine in, we get many requests for cafés and restaurants that serve the best rendition, and as usual, our staff agrees to disagree on the subject.
New Zealanders are fish crazy, and rightfully so. Fish is leaner and higher in protein than red meat and pork, and its rich omega oils are quite beneficial for brain and metabolic functioning of the body. According to the Seafood Industry Council of New Zealand, 88% of New Zealanders eat fish at least once a month. An astounding 640,695 tons of fish were consumed within New Zealand in 2010 which puts New Zealand near the top of the list of fish consuming countries if Per Capita consumption is taken into account.
In Britain cod or haddock has been the fish of choice when making a good fish and chip, but New Zealanders tend to use shark, hoki, and tarakihi because these varieties are plentiful off of coastal waters and are dense enough to stand up to the deep frying well. Traditionally lard was used for frying both the fish and chips but these days more and more professional kitchens use vegetable oils with a very high smoke point, such as peanut oil. The chips are always cut thick and seasoned with salt as soon as they come out of the fryer.
The most talked about and hotly debated aspect of making a proper fish and chip plate seems to be the batter the fish is fried in. Purists insist that the batter should just be a bit of flour and water, with the addition of vinegar and baking soda, which act as agents creating bubbles in the batter which supposedly leads to a lighter and crispier piece of fish. More modern recipes use beer instead of water, and proponents of adding beer to the batter claim that the carbon dioxide adds to the lightness and crispiness when frying, as well as enhancing the color of the finished product.
There are so many great restaurants to get fish and chips at across the country, that it is hard to pick just one place. Seafood Plus in Miramar is a place I recently discovered and their fish and chips are spot on. The fish here is perfectly crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Both the hand-cut chips and fish are perfectly seasoned and the portion size is large. This place is quite unique because it offers a very extensive menu which combines seafood, Chinese, and hamburgers. Although I almost always get the fish and chips when I come here, I have also tried their roast pork bun and genuine paua fritter and both were very well prepared. Seafood Plus does not do delivery, but luckily they offer pick-up if you are in a rush.
Fish and chips are a classic flavor combination just like ham and eggs or beer and nuts. This dish is simple and convenient when on the go. Every place has a slightly different take on it, and every region of the world uses various species of fish depending on seasonality and availability. Here in New Zealand we are fortunate that we have so much variety and abundance in our waters, which inevitably leads to a wonderful plate of fish and chips.