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Bia Sasta

Who serves the best fish and chips?

Wednesday, 5th August, 2020 4:13pm

One of the favourites dishes of Ireland (next to Irish stew) is Fish and chips. It’s also the national dish in the UK, next to chicken tikka masala, and I happen to love it and have eaten my fair share of it. Almost every pub that serves food has it on the menu and you can be guar- anteed that it will be offered to every tourist in the country. And yet, it can be hit and miss to get a good dish.

I have had way too many overcooked, sloppy, battered fish in my life and it still amazes me how we put up with bad food sometimes. Over the last weekend, Mr T and I visited The Old Thatch in Killeagh. It was busy and I was pleasantly surprised when the fish and chips arrived. Firstly, it was a huge portion, but the fish was beautiful. Just enough batter to ensure that it was cooked through, nice and crispy with a beautiful flaky fish underneath.

While I was enjoying the fish, we got talking on what makes a good plate of fish and chips. I remembered a place in Hunstanton that used plaice instead of the traditional cod, or in Thorney where they still used newspaper to wrap the fish and chips with the fish covered in almost orange batter.

I also remembered how my brother called me fussy when I said I am not eating in a local pub as they never cook the fish properly – he said it was grand! The next day I took him to the a pub in Kinsale and it gave me the deepest pleasure to see the disbelief in his face when he tried fish and chips. The difference was just too much not to be noticed. All the talk about where the best fish was to be had got me thinking what actually makes a good fish and chips plate.

The fish - it should be fresh but you get frozen fish more than you might think considering that we are a relatively small island. It should be white fish like cod or hake. Haddock is not one of my favourite fish but it works as well. The batter should be seasoned in my eyes. I love beer batter but it should be supporting the batter, not overpowering it. The batter should be covering the fish, but just about. This will ensure that the batter is cooked through, way too often I have had batter that was 0.5cm thick and you ended up eating half-cooked flour.

The oil – now, I am not expert in deep-frying but if I can smell the oil the second I come into a place, I think it is time to change it. The temperature needs to be hot enough to start sizzling straight away, not giving the batter time to absorb the oil, resulting in a mushy texture and taste. The length of time depends on the weight and thickness of the fish and I think here is where an inexperienced chef falls flat. The batter should have a light golden crust while the fish underneath should be a slightly translucent white.

The chips – the humble potato is always overlooked. The fish can be superb and yet the chips are from a catering pack with no flavour and just a powdery mush inside. When putting so much effort into the fish, why not do the same with the chips? We are famous for our spuds, why not make chips an equal partner in the fish and chips relationship?

Tartar sauce – please don’t give me a tube of it. It is there to give the fish a kiss on the cheek, not to strangle your taste buds. Mushy peas are a matter of taste but I personally love crushed peas in instead of the pale green mush, but that’s just me. Let me know where you think the best fish and chips is to be had!

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