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Fish & Chips: A Brief History of this British Staple October 2, 2019

Sun Bay South, Tampa
Fish & Chips: A Brief History of this British Staple, Tampa, Florida

Fish and chips can be found at any pub throughout the United Kingdom. This deep-fried meal is one of the most famous dishes in England, which might lead one to believe it was developed there. It wasn’t, however. If you want to dive deeper into the rich history behind this British favorite, here’s more information about how it was brought to the island and how it changed from there.

The History of Fish & Chips


The fish and chips dish is believed to have appeared in England as early as the 16th century, introduced by Jewish immigrants traveling from Portugal and Spain. In these countries, fried fish was known as “pescado frito” and was a common meal. It became popular in the United Kingdom quickly, though it wasn’t a regular dish in pubs and restaurants. Charles Dickens’s 1838 novel Oliver Twist mentions fish and chips. A Shilling Cookery for the People, published in 1845 by Alexis Soyer, also features a recipe for fried fish cooked in a “Jewish fashion.” Fried fish restaurants appeared as early as 1860, though the dish was not yet paired with chips.

pubChips, also known as French fries, appeared at roughly the same time. The term was first used in Charles Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities, published in 1859. The first true fish and chips shop appeared in the early 1900s, and within a few years, pubs started serving the dish across the country.

As Seen Today

Today, fish and chips remain a popular pub combo throughout the UK. Fish are often fried in beef drippings, vegetable oil, or lard, depending on the restaurant. In Ireland, a simple flour and water batter is more common. In England, baking soda, vinegar, and beer are typically used to create the batter. The type of fish also varies—it may be pollock, hake, skate, coley, whitefish, or cod. This means that a recipe you try at one pub may taste or look slightly different from one you have elsewhere.


If you want to try authentic fish and chips in America, stop by Mad Dogs and Englishmen. This Tampa, FL, pub has been a local favorite for over 25 years and serves a large selection of traditional English food. You’ll find a diverse menu, plenty of beer and wine, and live music throughout the week to keep you well-fed and entertained. Visit their website to explore their menu, or call (813) 832-3037 to book a reservation. You can also connect on Facebook to stay updated.

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