Thursday, 19 December 2013

The mysteries of the deep fat fryer

Mali's response to my last post about deep fried pizzas made me want to do a blog post on something that's been fairly standard to my life, but probably seems a bit weird to everyone else. When I did a foreign language class at school and people asked the teacher how to say they worked in a chip shop, he used to reply that there wasn't a direct translation

I don't know why he didn't just tell us to say "fast food outlet", or similar, but anyway, this is a post to illustrate how to order in one.

First, you must pick your item to be deep fried. In rough groupings, they are:

Fish - round here, it's usually haddock and sometimes there's a choice of cod and plaice too, as well as others. Haddock is the preferred option - my Dad told me that "cod eat all the shite off the bottom of the sea", which put me off it. Fish is always fried in batter, apart from "special fish", which is slightly more expensive and comes coated in orange breadcrumbs. Scampi is usually from the freezer and comes ready-breaded.

Meat products - Some of these come without batter; smoked sausage and chicken. "Normal" sausage comes in batter, as does haggis and black pudding and king rib. King rib I've never had, but it's not a rib, it's some sort of reconstituted pork product and is apparently not very nice. Burgers can either come in batter or not.

Pies - Oh yes, we deep fry pies. Usually mutton pies, but also steak pies and macaroni cheese pies. In the chippy I used to work in, the owner used to let her dog into the cold store and a customer once found one of its hairs in her lunch.

Pizzas - the prompt for this post. I think most people probably think that a deep fried pizza is a regular pizza that's fried. However, chip shops usually use a fairly low quality pizza that's basically a big bit of bread with some cheese, and possibly onion, on top. The accompanying chips usually stick to the cheese. Deep fried pizza can be unbattered or battered and come in half or whole portions. Battered deep fried pizza is called "pizza crunch" in some places.

Chocolate bars - this is actually a bit of a myth. The only time I've ever heard of anyone having a deep fried Mars Bar was in a chip shop where I worked and one of the staff cooked one as an experiment. They're sometimes advertised in chip shops that get a lot of tourist trades, and I believe may be consumed in the North East.

If you order one of the above items as a "single", then that's all you get. Asking for a "fish supper" means you will get it with chips.

The fryer will place whatever you have ordered into the hot, bubbling fat - it used to be beef dripping, but nowadays vegetable oil is more normal.

Then there are a choice of accompaniments and sides. These normally include:

Curry sauce - normally a sort of browny yellow gravy, not dissimilar from Chinese takeaway type curry. However, I did once order chips and curry sauce from a combined Indian and chip shop takeaway and they'd run out of sauce and asked me if I wanted "Indian curry sauce" instead, which made us both smile (actually, it was very nice; it had actual coriander in it and may have had a nutritional value that wasn't made up entirely of carbs and fat).

Mushy peas - these are mashed up peas that have been chemically altered to made them lurid green and very sweet. I can't abide them.

Then there are usually beans, coleslaw, gravy and cheese.

When the main bit of your supper is cooked, the fryer will place it on a cardboard box, and an assistant will ladle over some chips, if you want me.

Just before you get your food, the assistant will ask if you want any condiments. Where I come from, "salt and vinegar?" is normal, and you can ask for tomato sauce that's been heavily watered down with vinegar.

On the other side of the country, you get asked if you want "salt and sauce", the sauce in question being brown sauce that's been mixed with vinegar.

The differences between condiments in different areas is a very heated question, and has led to allegations of human rights abuses.

Having navigated this fraught territory, the assistant will wrap your purchase in paper - seventeen years on, I still remember being taught how to do this - and you will go on your way. The smell when you open the paper will be delicious, and whatever you've ordered is best eaten by the sea.

The whole thing is a bit weird, when you think about it - not just the sauce/vinegar debate, but the question of why some items always come battered and others don't.

Some chippies are much posher, of course; some do more kinds of fish, some do gluten free batter. Some - whisper it - even grill things.

So now you can confidently stroll into a chip shop and order a pizza crunch supper.

PS - forgot. You can order a "fish tea" in some places, which constitutes battered fish, chips, a slice of buttered white bread and a pot of tea, and usually either beans or mushy peas. I had never  encountered this before working in a chippy. I think I used to put a bit of lemon on it, for the vitamans, like.


  1. wow. I thought deep fried pizza was in the same category as the deep fried mars bar...
    In the Netherlands we call our chip shops "snack bar"
    We don't have pies though. I suppose I should not wonder why one would want to fry one, nor who would want macaroni cheese INSIDE a pie??!
    And I'm glad to read that mushy peas are not really real.
    Wishing you fresh crisp vegetables and brisk walks of more than two minutes!

  2. I have been born and brought up here, albeit with one foreign, and still find the deep fried pies/macaroni pie thing quite bizarre.

    I forgot this -

    I am overweight but at least eat vegetables, and am doing far more walking nowadays. My husband's childhood diet is a post in itself, but he refused to eat more or less any veg apart from potatoes and peas when I started dating him!

  3. Thanks for the education!! I'm still shaking my head at the thought of battered, deep-fried pizza ... and are the chips on top of the pizza, then everything is battered?

    Deep-fried pies?

    I am pleased to hear that deep-fried Mars bars are a bit of a myth.

    And battered burgers shocked me too, though then I realised that maybe you're just referring to the meat part of it? Not so unusual then. Here we would call them meat patties. And a battered sausage/saveloy (often on a stick) is what we call a hot dog. Hmmmm. I think our Scottish roots are showing through.

    And the other day I found a recipe for deep-fried turkey. I will not be trying it this Christmas.

    Great post!