Every tourist in London thinks a good old bag of fish and chips is the archetypal English takeaway. But in reality, not many people eat this traditional dish anymore.
I always like to take a look at the world’s most famous foods, and now it’s time I examine one my own country’s most well-known meals. It’s been a long time since I have enjoyed a good piece of traditional British fish, but I can always remember the melt-in-the-mouth goodness of the battered fish from days gone by. I think many people now think the same as me, though – it seems like a traditional food that is dying out on the streets of London, as we all prefer American fast food like Burger King or KFC.
Plaice, Rock, Haddock, and Cod are the main types of fish you will find in a fish and chip shop (we call these shops a “chippy”). The battered fish is usually quite tasty, although sometimes bones can be left in. You can also get small bites like pork pie, hard boiled egg, gherkin, and some shops even serve up some ice cream. A “chippy” is typically known all around the local area, and residents will sometimes forsake cooking a meal in the evening so they can go out and get some fish and chips, as if it’s some kind of treat. Sometimes, the chippy is considered a meeting place to join friends and colleagues where you can buy something quick to eat before heading on for more entertainment elsewhere in town.
Some “chippies” will have a few tables where you can sit and eat your meal, but most people buy their fish and chips with an intention to eat as a takeaway meal. This is where the newspaper was first used, as a kind of wrapper in which to keep everything hot while you are walking. Nowadays, health and safety regulations mean that regular newspapers are rarely used as the print might cause us to get ill, so cleaner ‘chip paper’ is used instead.
One place where the traditional British fish and chips takeaway is still going strong is beside the seaside. All along Britain’s southern and eastern coastline, you can bet your life that you will see kids and adults alike walking along the beach promenade with some chips in their hands. Most of the time, you will be served your chips in a cone-shaped piece of paper (think of an ice cream cone), and this is a good idea as the chips on the bottom that you get to last will still be piping hot – if a little soggy! Especially down by the beach, you will be able to find copious amounts of Jellied Eels in fish and chip shops, which are in a mini paper cup and served cold to you in all their natural juices! These jellied eels are considered part and parcel of a traditional fish and chip meal!
I wish fish and chips could be more popular, just like it was in the old days. However, I am happy to learn that many tourists to London (and the UK in general) still consider it to be an archetypal British meal and will try it for the sake of ‘eating like a local’. However, tourists must remember that greasy fish and chips that is covered with vinegar will be very smelly – so please don’t sit next to me on the London Underground!