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
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.
Snow Fish fillets 750
Butter ¼ cup
Soya Sauce 2
Lemon juice from 1 lemon (or 2 limes)
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
When almost cooked, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with lemon
wedges and a steamed rice accompaniment.