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McDonald's - A paean on the filet-o-fish (FOF)

It is as insidious as crack with its false promises and lies.

Eat fish… it is healthier … it whispers … muffled under layers of tartar sauce and a coat of melted cheese … its voice constrained by a fried coating.

And that is the genius of McDonald’s. They didn’t overdo it with lettuce. It knows what it is. Besides lettuce cools the sandwich and distracts from the soft comfort of each bite. Lettuce is jarring. It calls attention away from the fish. It wilts. That sort of softness is not a good thing. If one must have veggies, there is the catsup for the fries.

Opening the ocean blue paper clamshell box, the delicate round FOF is revealed. It is protected like an oyster in shell.

McDonald’s is scientific about buns for all its sandwiches. There is never too much or too little … it is always just right. There’s a slight sweetness to the bun contrasting with the tangy, classic, creamy sauce … McDonald’s does tartar sauce right. No pickle slice on the FOF, the tartar sauce provides that.

A thin, yet sturdy coating keeps the fish within juicy. The FOF is not afraid of of tasting like fish, the white square fillet, so to speak, nicely flaky and rarely overcooked or dry.

Should one choose the fries, there is that extra jolt of salt, evocative of the brisk ocean air. The American take of fish and chips.

It is a sandwich about all the elements working together yet letting the fish star as it should, the tartar sauce co-star .

Best paired with the orange drink … the delicate fish is complemented by the lighter floral yet Tangy flavor. While a cheeseburger can stand up to the bold taste of a cola, even bubbles are too sharp here.

It is an occasional treat to be savored as fois gras, lobster dipped in melted butter or decadent cake, too rich to eat every day.

- with acknowledgement to applehome, my muse for this post.


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  1. At 380 calories and 18g of fat it's a touch "healthier" than a cheeseless Quarter Pounder and better than nearly all of the chicken offerings. Pretty guilt-free from my perspective (although, as a teen, I could easily down four at a sitting).

      1. I had one a couple of weeks ago and almost went back for another!

        1. Are you insane? FOF is deep fried. It's fried in lard, covered with salt and fat, and covered with overly processed carbs.

          It's a fun parody, but still...if you put lipstick on a pig...

          5 Replies
          1. re: NewDude

            It's a little less poetic, but equally satisfying:

            Fish Filet Patty:
            Fish Filet (Hoki and Pollock), water, food starch-modified, yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, salt, whey, dextrose, dried yeast, sugar, sodium polyphosphate, potassium polyphosphate, cellulose gum, paprika and turmeric extract (color), natural flavors (plant source). Prepared in vegetable oil ((may contain one of the following: Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness), dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent).

            1. re: ferret

              In the grand scheme of things, that's not a bad list of ingredients. And yummy.

              1. re: ferret

                anti-foaming agent? Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm I gotta have some of that!

              2. re: NewDude

                McDonald's threw out the lard a few years ago.

                I only go into a McDonalds two or three times a year, and I always order Filet 'o Fish, small fries, and milk. That's almost healthy.

                The best part is that they usually have to fry the fish on the spot, and it is very freshly cooked. I just have to watch to make sure the fries are just as fresh.

                1. re: NewDude

                  NewDude, you sure sound anti-McDonalds with your lard-rants i this and the other McD's thread.

                  you sound hungry.

                2. I had one (no cheese) a couple of months ago and it was *all Chowhound's fault.* I hadn't been to Mc D's in maybe 20 years and hadn't missed it, but every year around Lent there seems to be a thread about fast food fish sandwiches and even though I'm not Catholic, it gets me thinking... So I indulged. I have to say that the smooth, round, squishy bun and the crunchy fish worked for me. It goes to show that the "chains" board is indeed a bad, bad influence.

                  1. I've lost 23 pounds since New Years, and I've avoided all earthly temptation (okay, I've stayed out of most drive-throughs), but I really want a fishy-fish sandwich tonight after work. Must...resist...tartary-sauce...temptation....

                    1. I had the craving a couple of days ago, so I bought frozen battered halibut from TJ's and baked it. I already had sliced sharp Cheddar (not pasteurized process cheese food like substance) in the fridge, and bottled tartar sauce and kaiser rolls.

                      Skipped the lettuce. Put it all together and it was pretty tasty! That halibut from TJ's is like grown up fish sticks. Nice flavor and non-mushy texture.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: coney with everything

                        You are a shining beacon of light, my friend. I woulda added the lettuce though. They sell some soy burgers which are pretty tasty as well, imo.

                      2. This inspired me and the lady friend to go out and get some FOF's just now. Along with some Hi-C Orange drink. Damn - it was worth the calories.

                        1. I once trained for a marathon by subsisting entirely on Filet-O-Fish, vanilla milkshakes and baked apple pies for an entire week.

                          Somehow the fact that it only has a half-slice of cheese product makes it all that much more appealing.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Darn you Rworange! Evil temptress begone!

                            I had completely forgotten about the existence of the McD FOF until I saw this thread. Never thought about this entity, had completely banished it from my existence. See no evil, eat no evil.

                            But I have to confess I love these things. I know it is wrong, but I love them from the bottom of my stomach. It is a never ending passion, a relationship that can only end in love handles and misery, but all-consuming (ie I will consume all).

                            must resist...

                            1. As a pimpled high school student who was proud to wear the paper hat of McD's in the early 70's, my favorite assigned station within that industrial leviathan was "fish and fried pies". The station had its own deep fat fryer, split to 2 chambers. The fry racks resembled a ribrack, where the product was inserted horizontally. Pies were on the rack of a dozen; fish fillets were 6 well-separated chambers.

                              The pies were a no-brainer. Fry 'em, slip into the paper sleeves that even in that naive age were labeled as "caution: filling is hot".

                              The FOF however offered room for artistry. Dropping the 6 fillets was a buzzer-timed event when the sensors assumed it was done.

                              The real artistry came in the steaming of the buns. The fried fillet was placed on the bun, the cute little 1/2 piece of cheese applied, and the perfectly squeezed tartar sauce from a calibrated caulking gun made it ready for the steamer. The assembled sandos were placed on the stainless steel plate of the steamer, the lid was brought down, and then the stopcock lever of the steamer was pressed to release the steam. The steam is what makes the FOF. We wrapped them immediately to hold the moisture.

                              These days I satisfy the FOF craving with a biannual visit to the Big Arches. To assure freshness, I request FOF without tartar sauce, with the sauce to be supplied in a plastic cup on the side. The fries unsalted please, to ensure fresh frying. Then with perfectly fresh FOF and fries, I salt and Sauce and enjoy the tartar also as a dipping sauce for the fries.

                              I'd love to hear from the newer generation as to the present McD's fabrication methods of the FOF.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: FoodFuser

                                Reviving this post for the annual lenten season of the FOF. Great tribute and also great description of the process by foodfuser. I too get the fresher fish by asking for no tarter, but will have to try the fry technique too.. Did you have to make six at a time so several just sat around?
                                So anyways to all FOF fans, I highly suggest you also try the new Fish McBites. Its nice to actually have two fish choices, and they have a good flavor.

                                1. re: chompie

                                  and getting rid of the tartar sauce brings it down to 300 calories, and almost cuts the fat in half

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    I get a double with no cheese and scrape off most of the tartar sauce.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      not when you add lots of mayo instead! but i add the healthy with my lettuce shreds :)

                                2. That is quite an ode.

                                  Now I want one of those things, and I had sworn them off for the past four years at least.

                                  Damnitttt !!!!

                                  1. Definitely foodie pornography at its finest hour.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: kevin

                                        Oh yeah.

                                        When I was working in San Diego, nothing broke up the seventy mile drive better than a FOF sandwich or Egg McMuffin, depending on the time of day.

                                        Not too heavy or too big and very, very satisfying. It gave me the energy to survive the upcoming twelve hours.