England’s national dish: fish (and chips) in beer batter!

In The Guardian’s ‘fact files’ of the 195 countries in the world one of the interesting facts given for each is their national dish: lots of stews, vegetable dishes, rice, potato or pasta bases and so on. Exotic names too.
Tave Kosi from Albania, (baked lamb with yoghurt), Balenda from Honduras, (tortilla with beans, sour cream and cheese), and Pabellon from Venezuela, (rice, shredded beef and stewed black beans). We in the ‘West’ are more prosaic: U.S.A, (hamburger and fries), Australia, (meat pie), Canada, (Poutine – French fries, covered with gravy and topped with cheese is their special heart-stopper!). While in the U.K., or rather England, it is, of course, fish and chips.
When I was young this was something of a staple food, not a fancy one. Served wrapped in newspaper, (with greaseproof paper inside if you were lucky), with great splashes of pungent vinegar and large grain salt. Chips in abundance, thick batter on the fish and – in the north – mushy peas.
Now it’s been fancified. Go to any decent restaurant offering ‘English new cooking’ and chances are you’ll find it on the menu. It will come on a huge gleaming plate, draped over chunky chips, with thick lemon wedges on the side, sea salt and tartare sauce to garnish. All washed down with premium lager or a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Pricey, too.
And every high street boasts its fish and chip shop, often with a small in-house restaurant on the side, offering white bread, (already buttered), and cups of tea. Still, it is the take away service that makes the money. Cypriots took over the trade for a few years but more recently it has reverted to the locals. Only the names have changed. In my area the best one is Chez Fred, posh and basic at the same time.
And so, what about Chiang Mai? The answer is, it can be found in abundance, English style. Charlie came and founded his well known place just of Loi Khroh Road. Many of the so-called pubs offer food of the old-fashioned English type, such as steak pie and chips, cottage pie and invariably fish and chips. Go to The Pub, The Red Lion or the Queen Victoria and try them.
Or why not take a look at the new kid on the block, called Piggy? It is a little hole-in- the-wall type eatery run by an English guy, Brian from Bromley in South London, and his charming Thai wife, Piggy, who does the cooking.
You’ll find it about 20 metres on the left, heading up the one-way Chang Moi Road not far from the moat, (turn left at Mike’s Burger Bar). It seats about a dozen customers, including four on the pavement tables and the menu is given on blackboards. It’s basic English, including steak and onion pie, various things on toast, (baked beans included), but my guess is the best choice is the fish and chips. That’s what I had anyway and tasty and filling it was too.
It comes in a thick fillet, (cod, naturally, although Thai fish is also available and is cheaper), and the batter is mixed with paprika and Chang beer. Deep fried, crispy and fresh. And here’s the extra-good news - it is priced at 170 baht, (if you’re feeling frugal, the Thai fish version is 120 baht). The owner is not after awards, just satisfied customers There is a large fridge stocked with drinks, soft or a choice of beers. These sell at little over shop prices – 65 baht for a large Singha. Only a couple of puddings, but ice cream might be about all you manage. Naturally they offer a take away service as well and once they are up and running this may proved popular, just phone up and collect a few minutes latter or pass by, have a small beer and wait for it to be cooked.
And what’s more, it’s going to be ‘cheap as chips’. Piggy opens from mid afternoon, about 4p.m. and is on Chang Moi Road, a few minutes walk from Thapae Gate.


BBQ Snow Fish in Brandy

This is a very easy BBQ dish and you can use almost any fish fillets. You are best to make the basting sauce two hours before and actually use it like a marinade, prior to the BBQ. The most important feature with all fish dishes like this one is in the careful filleting. A mouthful of bones does not impress your dinner guests! And do not overcook.

Ingredients                    Serves 3-4
Snow Fish fillets                   750 gm
Butter                                    cup
Soya Sauce                        2 tbspns
Lemon juice from 1 lemon (or 2 limes)
Brandy                                   cup
Garlic crushed                       1 clove
Sesame seeds                       cup

Cooking Method
In a pan on low heat melt the butter, then add and combine soya sauce, lemon juice, brandy and garlic. Remove from the heat and brush on to the fillets and leave them in the refrigerator for two hours.
Heat the BBQ plate and lightly grease the surface. Place fillets on the BBQ and baste frequently with the sauce. Turn once and repeat the basting until the fish is cooked through. This does not take long, especially if you have had the fillets soaking in the brandy and lemon.
When almost cooked, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with lemon wedges and a steamed rice accompaniment.