What is Fish and Chips?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Fish and chips is a classic British dish which includes battered deep fried fish and fried potatoes. There are numerous variations on this dish, but the basic components remain the same. In addition to being popular in Britain, they are also widely consumed in many other regions of the world, especially those with coastlines and active fisheries. Seafood restaurants often stock fish and chips, as do pubs, and it is also possible to make them at home.


The classic fish used in Britain is cod, a whitefish with very dense, flavorful flesh. Depletion of the global cod fishery has led to replacement of cod with other fish like snapper. Essentially any sort of dense fish will do, and the fish should ideally be fresh. The batters used are also quite varied, from delicate Japanese style tempura to more heavy beer batters.

Fish and chips are particularly popular in Britain.
Fish and chips are particularly popular in Britain.

The “chips” which accompany fish and chips are better known to some people as “fries” or “French fries.” Chips can be incredibly varied, depending on the region and the cook, ranging from classic shoestring potatoes to big wedges of country style potatoes. Depending on taste, the potato skin may be left on or off, and the fries may even be battered in some regions.

Great Britain is famous for its fish and chips.
Great Britain is famous for its fish and chips.

Oil and malt vinegar are the traditional accompaniments to fish and chips, although some people also like ketchup. In some regions, tartar sauce is offered as a dip for the fish, and wedges of lemon for extra flavor are not uncommon. It is also possible to see this dish with more unusual sauces and garnishes, such as ponzu sauce for Asian-style fish and chips.

Depending on how it is prepared, the dish can be light and flavorful, or heavy and greasy. The greasiness level is impacted by things like the frying temperature, the type of oil used, how long the fish and chips are allowed to drain, and how crowded the fryer is. In some regions, heavier grease levels are actually actively sought out, while in others, people try to make them as light as possible.

This dish is a quintessential take-out dish in Britain, where fish and chips may be served wrapped in a newspaper. Many seaside towns around the world offer them as a take-away dish in addition to allowing people to sit and eat, and some stands have become famous for their food. If you happen to be visiting a region of the world where fish and chips are common, ask a local for recommendations, as poorly prepared versions can make a dreary meal.

Fish and chips cooked in a deep fryer is common in the UK.
Fish and chips cooked in a deep fryer is common in the UK.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


When we were in Europe we saw several stands selling fish and chips. I wanted to try as many traditional foods as I could, but since I don't care for the taste of fish didn't figure I would like it no matter how well it was prepared.

The rest of my family ordered this more than once, and it was one of their favorite meals while we were on vacation there.


Some places are starting to make versions of the traditional fish and chips that are not as heavy and full of as many calories.

I have found these to be just as satisfying and fulfilling and love eating this meal with less grease. I have had a greasy fish and chips meal before and felt miserable for a few hours after eating it.

My favorite way of eating any meal of fish and chips is with the traditional oil and malt vinegar. I think this is the perfect complement to the fish. My husband only likes his with ketchup, and this doesn't sound appealing to me at all.


The first time my son ordered fish and chips as a meal, he thought he was going to get "fish sticks" and potato chips. I am sure there are places where this is considered a fish and chips meal, but he got the "real thing".

I love fish and chips when the batter is thick and the potatoes are also lightly battered. I know this isn't the most figure friendly meal, but don't feel guilty about treating myself to this every once in awhile.


When we were vacationing on the East coast there were many restaurants that served fish and chips. I was used to eating these with simple french fries, but these came with big slices of real potatoes.

I must say the whole meal tasted better here than anywhere else I have ever eaten them. I imagine it was because the fish was fresh and they really know how to cook them the right way.

Once you have tasted what "real" fish and chips taste like, it is hard to go back to something that is not quite as authentic.

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