How Did Fish and Chips Become Britain’s Favourite Dish?

Nov, 2020

Vocabulary list 

• Students read each word followed by the definition, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• The teacher reads the sample sentence and the students repeat, focusing on the correct pronunciation.

• After reading the list, students try to make their own example sentences using the words that are new to them. 

• Students share their example sentences and the teacher gives feedback, correcting errors if necessary.

colloquially (adverb)


said or done in an informal or familiar manner

It was quite an informal meeting so we spoke colloquially throughout.


basis (noun)


the frequency or manner of how something is done

A restaurant kitchen should be cleaned on a regular basis.


fry (verb)


to cook food in hot oil, butter or fat

Simply fry some mushrooms in a little butter and garlic; they’re delicious.


batter (noun)


a mixture of flour, eggs and milk that is used to cover food before frying it

Japanese tempura prawns are covered in a light batter and deep fried.


height (noun)


the point or period at which something is at its best or strongest

At the height of its power, the Mongol Empire controlled over 20 million square kilometres of land.


persecute (verb)


to treat someone badly over a long period of time, usually because of their race, religion or political beliefs

Africans were persecuted by Europeans for hundreds of years during the transatlantic slave trade.


amongst [among] (preposition)


included with or in the middle of a larger group of people or things

The black widow is amongst the most poisonous spiders in the world.

How Did Fish and Chips Become Britain’s Favourite Dish?

Recently voted Britain’s favourite takeaway, fish and chips is a traditional British meal that is sold all over the UK. Fish and chip shops are known colloquially as ‘chippies’, and it is said that over a fifth of the UK population visit one of the more than 10,000 chippies in the country on a weekly basis. However, like many traditions in Britain, the origin of fish and chips does not begin in England.

Frying fish in batter has been a common cooking method in Jewish communities for a long time. According to their religion, Jews should not do any cooking on the seventh day of the week, which is known as Shabbat, because it is a day of rest. Shabbat begins at sunset on Friday and lasts for 24 hours. So, The Jewish people would cook enough fish on a Friday to eat as leftovers on Saturday, meaning they could avoid cooking on Shabbat. The fish would usually be a white fish, such as cod or hake, which are still the favoured choices of fish in a fish and chips meal.

During the 15th century when the Spanish Inquisition was at the height of its power and influence in Spain, people who were not considered ‘true’ Catholics were persecuted, or forced to leave Spain. Amongst those who left the country were thousands of Jews. Many of them came to England, bringing their culture and cooking traditions with them. This meant that frying fish the Jewish way became popular in England.

Originally, Jewish style fried fish was a type of street food and was served individually. It wasn’t until the 19th century that chips were added to the meal, although no one knows for sure where this idea came from. However, it is believed that it may have been the idea of a Jewish immigrant called Joseph Malin, who may have also opened Britain’s first chippy in East London in the 1860’s. Though some sources argue that the first fish and chip shop was opened by a Mr Lees from Lancashire in the north of England.

By the late 16th century, frying food in batter had become common in several European communities, not just Jewish ones. The cooking method is believed to have been brought to Japan by the Portuguese Jews around that time — which is where the country’s beloved tempura comes from.



1. The tradition of eating fish and chips originated in England.



2. Why did the Jews cook their fish during the day on a Friday?


3. Why did the Jews leave Spain?


4. Jewish fried fish was not originally eaten with chips.



5. Joseph Mali opened the first fish and chip shop in England.



6. The tempura style of cooking was also brought to Japan by the Jews.



  • Do you like fish? If so, what are your favourite ways to have it?
  • Apart from fish and chips, what other types of British food do you know, and which, if any, do you like?
  • What are some of the traditional foods from your country?
  • Do you know the origins of some of your traditional dishes?
  • What are favourite foreign food dishes?
  • If you had to eat one type of foreign food for a month, what would it be?
  • Do you have street food in your country? If so, what are some of the typical things that you can get?
  • Do you know of any foods or dishes from your country that have become popular abroad?
  • What traditional dish from your culture would you recommend everyone to try?
  • Mark Kurlansky said – “Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.” What do you think this means?