Fish & Chips Done 3 Ways – Part 1

Honest disclaimer: I can’t deep-fry food. I’ve probably tried it once or twice in all my years of cooking, but am fundamentally against immersing food in a pool of oil to cook it. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy stuffing face with deep-fried pakoras, samosas and kachoris, fries and chips, fritters and croquettes, meats and seafood etc.
Especially that last one. From popcorn shrimp and crunchy calamari to maach bhaja and fish and chips; when great fish meets hot oil and other ingredients, it’s a deliciously magical ride. So okay, I chicken out of deep frying by choosing other techniques like pan frying and shallow frying, or even baking, even as I’m aware about how some of these methods work in more fat than deep frying when done right. So when Pooja Shivdasani from FishVish suggested doing fish and chips several ways, my first thought was—that’s a lot of frying for one day; heck, one meal. Followed by—I need to call Ma. A little background on the latter—my mother, like most mothers of the past, present and future maybe, is a great cook, and frying is one of her favourite styles; her samosas are legendary. Her tricks include heating the fat in the wok to the right temperature, and ensuring there’s just enough of it for the portion to ‘swim’; there’s nothing more she hates than a vat of burnt-to-murkiness oil that has no place in your food, and needs to be thrown out. 
So the call to mother was duly made, her availability to fill in the position of ‘chief fryer’ confirmed and the menu excitedly finalized. There were to be three kinds of fish and chips, so there had to be three different fish varieties. We got beautiful tilapia fillets, bhetki and halibut steaks—so good, even Ma approved. Pooja came over, originally to take photographs and sample the day’s cooking, but ended up helping, cooking, cleaning, drinking beer and sharing stories. Just the way it is when a little group of people decide to be in the kitchen together at the same time.
Chippy shop fare for the day included Jamie Oliver’s Fish and Chips with an Olive Tartar Sauce; Kolkata Bhetki and Chips with Homemade Kasundi; Asian-inspired Halibut and Chips with Peanut Sambal.
Jamie Oliver’s Fish and Chips with an Olive Tartar Sauce

Serve your fish and chips on parchment paper for a real chippy shop feel.
Jamie’s recipe comes across as a fairly simple, pretty traditional way of dishing out a great version of the Brit classic, but what won’t be as obvious on reading is that it’s a super amazing way of getting a crisp crust on your fish fillets. This is beer battering done very right; you will love the crunch on the soft flesh that stays for a while, unlike some other batter recipes that go soggy if not eaten straight out of the fryer. The beer is an essential component; put it in even if you don’t like beer, for it doesn’t leave much of a prominent aftertaste. Substitute with club soda if you’re avoiding beer for other reasons. We chose to skip the mushy peas, originally a part of Jamie’s recipe.
The beer batter for your fish fillets should be thick and shiny.

The olive tartar sauce was something I came up with at the last minute, after having discovered the disappearance of my jar of dill pickles. Chopped green olives and a teeny pinch of sugar act as stand-ins for sweet relish and pickled gherkins; the tangy olive bits and creamy, vinegary mayo are the perfect foil to the fried fish and potatoes. 

For the Fish and Chips:

  1. About 500g of tilapia fillets
  2. Sea salt and Pepper
  3. Vegetable oil for deep frying
  4. 225 grams of flour, plus extra for dusting
  5. 285 ml cold beer (we used a light pilsner)
  6. 3 teaspoons baking powder
  7. About 800 grams of potatoes
  • Wash and blot dry the thawed tilapia fillets. Season with sea salt and pepper on both sides. 
  • Mix the cup of flour, baking powder, pinch of salt and cold beer into a thick, shiny batter.
  • Dredge the seasoned fillets in flour, dip in the beer batter and gently lower the fillets one by one in a deep fryer or pan with oil heated to 190ºC. 
  • Fry for about 4 minutes, until the crust is golden.
  • For the chips, peel and cut the potatoes into chips, and cook in a pan of salted boiling water for about 4 minutes. 
  • Drain chips and blot on kitchen towels. 
  • Fry in oil heated to 180ºC, until crisp and golden.
For the Olive Tartar Sauce:
  1. 1 cup good mayonnaise
  2. 3 tablespoons chopped green olives (we used pimiento-stuffed green olives)
  3. 2 tablespoons minced or grated red onion
  4. A pinch of sugar
  5. A squeeze of lemon or lime
  6. 1 teaspoon chopped parsley (optional)
  • Mix all ingredients and taste to check for seasoning. 
  • Garnish with whole green olives if desired and serve with the fish and chips.
Coming up in Part 2… Kolkata Bhetki and Chips with Homemade Kasundi and Asian-Inspired Halibut and Chips with Peanut Sambal

About the Author
An incorrigible gastronome, Rupika V is on a perpetual quest to find the best food around, and will happily travel far to find it.

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