Fish & Chips

In my travels I have a few standbys that I order; salads, fish tacos and fish & chips.  Sure, deep fried food isn’t the best option for my waistline, but sometimes you just need to spoil yourself.  Salads get boring, fish tacos get messy, and I just don’t want to eat that many burgers.

Since I’ve eaten fish & chips in so many places, I’ve started to rank them.  To me a good fish & chips plate should a great, fresh piece of fish that’s lightly breaded and fried to a crisp crust that surrounds and continues to steam the fish as its placed in front of you.  To get the right consistency the oil needs to be the right temperature, the breading has to be just thick enough to give you a great coating but not so thick that it becomes a grease sponge, and of course the cooking time has to be long enough to give you that perfect crunch.

The other component to a great fish & chips plate is the chips, or fries.  They need to be thin, with a light flavor, and salted just right.  The chips make the meal.  I like mine skinny with a nice crunch to them.  Soggy is a sin.  Finally, coleslaw and some tarter sauce round out the plate.  Some places give you a slice of lemon.  Whatever.  The coleslaw needs to be fresh or it shouldn’t even be on the plate.

So in my travels the best fish & chips I’ve had in North America was in Halifax at The Five Fishermen.  It doesn’t even appear on their menu, so it must have been a special lunch menu item at the time.  Two crispy pieces of fish wrapped in paper the English way, with a pile of fries.  Fantastic.

There are clearly more important things than fish & chips, but this basic dish is one of the staples of the fried seafood menu.  As a fast, relatively inexpensive meal it provides a quick fix for protein and carbs, while skimping greatly on nutritional value.  So be it.  Fish & chips belongs on every menu on the coast, and should be shunned with suspicion at most landlocked establishments.  On my quest for the best fish & chips in North America I’ve run into the good, the bad and the fugly.  I’ll take that risk for the greater good of identifying the best in the region.