The Jewish history of fish + chips
Fish and chips are a beloved British classic, but few people know the Jewish contribution to this favourite national dish.
While chips have their origins in France and Belgium, it was Jewish-Portuguese refugees who first brought fried battered fish to the UK in the 16th century. The fish was a Shabbat dish, which was battered with egg and breadcrumbs, fried in olive oil on Friday and eaten cold on the Saturday. The batter - so central to today’s fish and chips - was essential in keeping the fish from spoiling, and led to this style of cooking fish being known as fish ‘in the Jewish manner’.
While fish and chips existed as separate entities for a long time, they weren’t served together for a long time, though fried fish was sold as a street food on its own. The first person to serve them together was probably an Ashkenazi Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin, who opened up the first fish and chip shop in London in 1860.
Nowadays fish and chips are one of the most popular British takeaways: one with an unexpected history!