Tasty Island's Fish 'N Chips Project

Tasty Island’s Beer Battered Pollock Fish ‘N Chips with tartar and cocktail sauce.
Prepared, photographed and (quickly) consumed 12.15.07.
Hawaiian Flag in background.

Ever since childhood, I was always crazy for Fish ‘N Chips. Having English heritage (my grandmother was 1/2 English, 1/2 Hawaiian), I’m not surprised. While this dish isn’t exactly common in the islands as it should be (we ARE surrounded by the ocean!), there are some great places if you look for it.

One of the of the best I’ve had is Alexander’s in Kihei, Maui (now under new ownership), where they use a “secret” seasoned tempura-based batter. It’s fantastic. What’s also unique is that they offer 4 of the most popular game fish caught in Hawaiian waters for the customer to choose from: Ahi, Mahimahi, Ono or Marlin. Also Shrimp and clams. Nice.

I’m bent on perfecting the art and science of preparing this seemingly simple, yet can-be-complex dish. My quest for perfect Fish ‘N Chips starts here.

I’ve searched the web trying to find the definitive classic English batter recipe, only to find there are more variables than constants from one to the other. Go see for yourself. Some use beer, some use milk. For lightness, some use peaked egg whites, while others use baking powder. Some pre-dredge in dry flour, some don’t. Others use varying types of flours and even cornmeal. But I can’t find a common denominator!

Preparations I disagree with are those that use bread crumbs or panko. That to me is more like a fish cutlet. That texture just changes the whole thing.

There are premixed boxed Fish ‘N Chips batter mixes out there that are pretty good, such as one by McCormick.

But I want to master this from scratch (less the chips), and being a simple kinda’ guy, I went with a simple beer batter recipe found online and modified it just slightly to put my signature on it… if that’s even possible. I substituted rice (Mochiko) flour for the first dredge, adjusted the salt and beer quanties and a put out a full line-up of condiments, which is how I learned to eat it at Alexander’s.

Following is my first, very succesful attempt at Fish ‘N Chips, beer batter style. Enjoy!

with Simple Beer Batter

Serves 2-4 people

Batter up:
1-2 lbs. fish fillets (white flesh such as Pollock, Cod, Mahimahi & Ono), cut into strips
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 medium or large egg (white and yolk)
1-1/2 cups beer (whatever you’ve got, just make sure it has carbonation, as you need those bubbles for the batter to be light)

1st base:
1/2 cup rice (Mochiko) flour for first dredge (use APF, if rice flour not available)

2nd base:
3 cups canola oil

3rd base:
Chips (I used frozen Ore-Ida seasoned fries (with skin). Cook enough for the amount of people you’re serving.

Home Run:
Cocktail Sauce (the stuff used for Shrimp Cocktail)
Tartar Sauce
Fresh Lemon Wedges
Garnish (optional) such as chopped fresh Green Onion, Chives, or Parsley

If you prefer, substitute the lemon wedges with Malt Vinegar. Another English tradition. Or heck, use both!

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg with beer (the wet stuff). Add all other dry batter ingredients into another bowl, then slowly add egg and beer liquid mixture and whisk until fully combined into a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Like a thin milk shake consistency. Let that sit in bowl at room temperature for 15 minutes to set.

Set up your fry station:
Place additional rice flour (1st base) in a shallow bowl or plate. Have batter mixture next to that. Heat cooking oil in pot on stove to 350º F. (about medium heat). If you have a deep fryer, great. I don’t, so the pot of oil works.

Fry it:
First fry the chips (fries) according to directions on package. Remove to paper towel to soak excess oil.

Now, one by one, dredge each fish piece in dry rice flour and shake off excess…

Then dip fish in batter mixture to evenly and thoroughly coat…

Notice the batter’s thin milk shake-like viscosity, yet the initial dredge of flour gives it good “batter body”

Then immediately place into pot of hot cooking oil…

Don’t overcrowd oil, as that will drop the temperature and make it greasy. 3 pieces max./session. Turn with tongs and cook until it’s an even light golden brown, which happens within minutes. Remove and place on plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve it up. Layer a bed of fries on plate, then place 2 to 3 fish pieces over it. Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and lemon wedge, then finish with green garnishment (optional, but highly recommended).

Note that I serve not one, but two dipping sauces, which truly is the icing on the cake. The richness and pickled accent of the mayo’-based tartar sauce, along with the savory tomato and horseradish bite of the cocktail sauce each on their own compliment the deep-fried, battered fish perfectly. Another one of those culinary marriages made in heaven. A squeeze of lemon juice, a dip in one of the sauces, then sink it down with some chips and, BOOM!, perfect Fish ‘N Chips! Simplicity at its finest. So awesome.

A key to making it come out golden-brown and delicious is oil temperature management. I usually test the oil by dropping just batter in first to see where it’s at. If it sinks and doesn’t bubble, it’s not hot enough. If it immediately burns, it’s too hot. It’s gotta immediately bubble, yet have time to cook the fish inside first. And keep an eye on it. Walk away for a minute and it could go from GBD to burnt in a split. Not good. If you’ve done it right, the oil will seal the batter around the fish, creating a “capsule” that steams it inside, making it moist and tender inside, and light and crispy outside without being greasy. Oh and believe me, these were beautifully tender!…

Tender and moist inside, with a flavorful, crispy, light and golden brown crust

To be honest, Pollock is a bit too mild for me. Especially being this stuff was previously frozen, which surely robbed some of its flavor. Next time I’ll make it using FRESH Ono, Marlin or Mahimahi, which I know has more punch, and definitely rules over Pollock for the “Ultimate Fish N’ Chips”. Still, the pollock matches, is very moist and overall works quite nicely.

And those seasoned Ore-Ida fries “chips”? Forget baking ’em, this is fish n chips, baby… fry ’em! Awesome! The “chips” are just as important as the fish in this simple dish, and have to be right, and these do the dish proud. It doesn’t have to be this brand, but I’ve only had good experience with these.

You can also add a simple coleslaw as a side dish, which is what Alexander’s served with theirs. This actually makes for a more complete meal. Gotta’ have your veggies! Next time I’ll add that.

Well that looks quite fab’ I must admit, and it tasted pretty darned great! Next time I’ll do that Ono or Mahimahi. I’ll also try different seasonings in the batter. I can get into this kinda’ project.

Mmm, mmm, mm. Gotta’ love them Fish ‘N Chips. Good day, mates!


6 thoughts on “Tasty Island's Fish 'N Chips Project

  1. Oh the persuasive power of very convincing visuals. (Yeah, that fantabulous photo right above).

    I just pulled out a 1 lb. ricciola from the freezer. I think it’s a relative of hamachi. Ingredient-wise, everything else I have, so this one is a go…for lunch today!

  2. I’ve just happened to stumble upon your blog while perusing through recipe posts. I love fish and chips and MUST try your recipe soon. That fifth photo just totally did it. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

  3. Don’t you think frying is for inferior fish? I mean, real good fish can be eaten raw right? My friends from the south disagree, but I feel I’ve yet to be proven wrong about this! (I am fish snob?)

  4. Wow Pomai! I wish we had fish and chips like that here – I think you have found a truely magical recipe! I may try this recipe but to fit in with my blog I will have to bake in the oven!

  5. It’s great u describe, I wanna start a restaurant just “Fish N Chips” in Sri Lanka will u be with me to guide me? Thanks Lot

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