Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 24, 2010 08:56 AM

Tradition of wrapping fish & chips in newspaper

I've never been to the UK, but my impression was that fish and chips were/are sold in newspaper that has been folded into a conical shape. Yesterday I was at an "Irish" restaurant in New Hampshire whose specialty is fish & chips, so I ordered it. They were put onto a piece of white parchment-like sandwich-wrapping paper such as delicatessens use, then completely wrapped in newspaper which was folded over to seal it up completely. It was awkward to open and slide the sandwich sheet onto the plate without losing anything, not to mention that fried foods don't take well to being "steamed" this way, however briefly.
Is this a typical British way of presenting fish and chips?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "They were put onto a piece of white parchment-like sandwich-wrapping paper such as delicatessens use, then completely wrapped in newspaper which was folded over to seal it up completely"

    I believe this is how it's generally done in the British Isles now. It was still wrapped in just newspaper when I was there in the 70's. At one point, issues arose from the possibility of ink chemical contamination (I think it was just the newsprint issue and not other unsafe food handling practices) from newsprint. Here's a quote from an article from the UK Mirror:

    "To keep prices down, portions were often wrapped in old newspaper, a practice that survived until the 1980s when it was ruled unsafe for food to come into contact with newspaper ink without greaseproof paper in between."

    So, what your place in NH is doing is the pretty much the same wrapping style, and I agree that it's not the best method for allowing the fried fish to remain crispy; I may be wrong about this, but I'm not sure if the crispiness of the fried fish is really the most important aspect of fish and chips to the Brits. ;-}

    Here's the link to the rest of the article:

    2 Replies
      1. re: monku

        That is the state of ink now in the US, but that was not the case when the laws were passed in Britain in the early 80's, and the use of newspaper as fish and chips wrapper has not been reinstated.

    1. bushwickgirl has it spot on.

      It's many years since chippies wrapped in newspaper. A sad loss in the march of progress. Now you're likely to get it in a polystyrene tray, with lid - not half as much fun eating it while walking home from the pub, half pissed.

      bushwickg also has it spot on about quality - so many places serve up really poor fish & chips. Soggy batter, fish left keeping warm under the lights; undercooked chips. But when you find a good place............And,as I've mentioned on other threads, the first documented fish & chip shop opened only a few minutes drive from home, in the town of Mossley, in 1863. We know our fish & chips up north!

      8 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        "walking home from the pub, half pissed"

        Just a point of reference on two countries separated by a common language.

        In the UK "pissed" = a tad drunk
        In the US "pissed" = angry

        Eating F 'n C with the UK definition is way more enjoyable than the US definition. :-))

        1. re: jfood

          Indeed so, jfood.

          Although, the folk who are tad drunk tend to throw their wrapping papers away when they've finished. Usually into the nearest front garden. We used to live at the address where many would finish eating! Which made us a tad pissed - in the US sense.

          (PS: we also use the word in the US sense although would always say "pissed off" )

          1. re: jfood

            Several of us were in a roadhouse (the third that day, I think) near the Tennessee-Kentucky border, and this Brit who was with us somehow offended a local, who got in his face pretty bad. Our lad tried to apologize, saying, "Sorry, but I'm really pissed..." A couple of the women had to jump in front of the local while we bundled the baffled Englishman out the door...

            1. re: jfood

              jfood........Should the fish be wrapped in the comics? Does the color affect the cleansliness? Hot melly loves oysters... What do you think of the price of 6 regular oysters should be in south Florida......HotMelly would love to know your expert opinion.

            2. re: Harters

              So, if you can eat it out of the paper while walking home, it ISN'T sealed up in the paper as my order yesterday was - was the typical presentation a newspaper cone, or some other shape?

              1. re: greygarious

                Take approx. 3 pages of newspaper and lay it out in front on you. Dump a scoopful of chips in the centre. Top the mound with a crisply battered piece of haddock (or soggy battered piece of cod as is more usual). Shake a large dose of salt over. Then drench in malt vinegar (or, in the lower class of establishment, "non-brewed condiment"). Fold over the pages to wrap and seal. Fish & chips were always intended as take-away - dining facilities only came much later and are still most uncommon.

                As you walk home, you unwrap...balancing a large portion of F & C in one hand, with newspaper billowing about, whilst eating with other hand (occasionally managing to reach into your jeans pocket for the bottle of beer you bought before going to the chippy). Ah, the joys of Friday nights, when you're young (and you've managed to get served in the pub even though you're not 18).

                So, yes, it sounds like you were served in something like the traditonal way.

                Occasionally, one gets served chips in a restaurant in a cone of paper printed to make it look like newspaper. Cute, eh?

                1. re: Harters

                  Fake-newspaper cone was how the H. Salt chain used to serve theirs. The few remaining examples that I've visited are down to generic p. napkins and foam clamshells.

                2. re: greygarious

                  what you do GG is open your fish and chips at the chippie (word used for establishment selling fish n chips) then you add salt and malt vinegar to taste before you leave. You hold your loosely rewrapped food and eat on your way home, or sit on a park bench or wall. The chips sort of steam and get soggier which is just how we like em - fat hand cut chips made of real potatoes. The fish isn't really supposed to be crispy either. I am partial to a piece of fried cod's roe shaped a bit like a burger patty only thicker as well as my fish, some like a pickled egg or a wally (pickled cucumber) too.
                  Favourite fish - cod, haddock, plaice and skate for most chippies, some more upmarket ones will have lemon sole, halibut.

                  It is not uncommon for chippies to have names like John's Plaice, Ann's Plaice, or seaside type names like the Sea Shell, Sea Shore.

              2. My grandparents and mother emigrated to the U.S. in 1921, when my mother was 7. My grandparents used to wax rhapsodic about the joys of fish and chips (with malt vinegar) served in a cone of newspaper back in "the old country." They talked about them until they died! They were from the north of England (Sunderland) and my impression, though I don't recall them sayng so specifically, is that the fish and chips in a newspaper cone were sort of "street food." Maybe they ordered it to go and ate while they strolled in a park or whatever. Though they also told tales of how bitter cold the snow bound winters were when they were "courting." So fish and chips in newspaper is a very very old custom. Possibly as old as the first "yesterday's edition" of a newspaper!

                1. for them to have served it that way at a sit-down restaurant is just wrong.

                  the idea in ireland and the uk of serving it that way was strictly for take-out, from a very small shop or even a wagon, and then you suck it all down inside of a minute so no 'toxic ink' gets a chance to seep into anything! and yes, the classic way was in a quickly twisted up cone.

                  1. When I was growing up in Melbourne, Australia in the 50's, we would spend an afternoon at the local pool and buy fish and chips on the way home. They were wrapped in greaseproof paper and newspaper. We would tear the top off and dip in with our fingers, with or without white vinegar. In Melbourne they still use 'flake', [gummy shark]. Believe me fish and chips has never tasted so good on a 'plate'!!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: diana45

                      I worked for a third-generation chip shop owner from Bradford, Yorks, in the early 70's in Berkeley, CA. He was adamant that f&c was always protected from the newspaper by greaseproof paper (the dry waxed kind that was at that time sold in Kleenex-type boxes).