If chicken tikka masala is Britain’s national dish, fish and chips has to get an honorary mention.
Whether you fancy a freshly caught and fried fish in a seaside town, or you like your fish and chips Friday, Brits eat an estimated 167 million fish and chips meals a year.
But when and where did we start to fall in love with fish and chips? It all traces back to Joseph Malin, a man who first paired fried and battered fish with chips in East London around 1860 – and made history.
Joseph Malin came from a family of rug weavers, and they were based around Bow in East London. And in the early 1860s, he started selling fried chips as a side hustle for carpet making.
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Now, battered and fried fish by itself was already a flourishing trade in the East End. Despite fish and chips being seen as a quintessentially ‘English’ food, battered fish was actually bought to the UK from Portuguese Jewish people.
Many of them settled in the UK (specifically East London), in the 1600s, fleeing persecution in their home countries.
They bought with them their delicious Portuguese tradition of peshkado frito, or ‘fried fish’.
So around 1860, Joseph Malin had the genius idea of pairing his fried potato with fried fish, perhaps from one of the nearby fried fish sellers in the East London area. And ta-daa, fish and chips was born.
About a decade later, in 1871, the famous Rock and Sole Plaice opened in Covent Garden, where it is still open today.
However, it must be noted that Joseph Malin’s claim to being the first fish and chips shop does have some rivalry….300 miles from London in Greater Manchester.
Some claim that one John Lees, who also opened a fried fish and chips stall around the same time in the early 1860s was the first.
Despite that, Malin’s was open until the 1970s, so Joseph Malin’s fishy legacy lives on in the hearts of many Londoners, as the first ever of its kind in London, at the very least, if not the whole country.
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