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“Fried in the Jewish fashion” became the delicious norm

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In Paris, Malin’s serves authentic British Fish & Chips in the tradition of the name, “100% raw and natural ingredients all cooked fresh, on site on the day of purchase.” (Photo: Facebook)

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Yum! Crispy battered white fish, deep-fried to a golden brown with thick-cut fried chips. 

Today, this undeniably Jewish delicacy is often mistakenly credited to the British.

Where did it all begin?

During the Middle Ages, Sephardic Jews practiced freely in Portugal and Spain. These Jewish families, in keeping with halacha, would prepare their kosher Shabbat meals before sundown on Friday. One of their  favorite dishes was “peshkado frito,” a white fish, typically cod or haddock, coated with flour or matzo meal, some sesame seeds tossed in the mix, and fried to a crispy golden-brown.  

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In 1492, the Spanish Inquisition outlawed Judaism, sending more Jews to neighboring Portugal. This sudden surge boosted Portugal’s Jewish population to over 20%. Unfortunately, Portugal’s Sephardic safety net was short-lived. In 1496, Portugal’s King Manuel I married Isabella of Spain, who insisted on conversion, expulsion, or death to all its Jews. 

Jews who were able, fled to other parts of Europe. Those who managed to reach England brought their recipes with them. 

Lacking marketable employment skills as well as language difficulties, Jewish immigrants began selling their peshkado frito to the working-class masses in the streets. Prior to the advent of the street cart, they would carry fried fish trays, hung from their necks with leather straps. These delicious, nutrition and affordable meals introduced the British populace to the Fried Fish Filet. 

In 1781, Hannah Glasse’s “The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy” discussed “the Jews’ way of preserving all sorts of fish. On Thomas Jefferson’s first trip to England in March 1786, he wrote about sampling “fried fish in the Jewish fashion.” 

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In 1824, London’s Morning Chronicle highlighted the upcoming boxing match between Barney “champion of the twelve tribes” Aaron and Peter Warren. The article stated that for those Jews who would make the 18-mile journey from London to Colacbrook to watch Aaron in action, “the area around Petticoat Lane in East London was occupied with frying fish.” Aaron’s bare-knuckled victory knockout in the twenty-ninth round propelled him to the rank of England’s top contender. Years later, his son, “The Young Aaron” became the United States first Lightweight Champion. 

Victorian celebrity chef Alexis Soyer’s bestselling 1845 cookbook included, ‘‘Fried Fish, Jewish Fashion”.

The recipe involved dipping halibut in a batter of water and flour and then deep frying. 

Meanwhile, a young man named Joseph Malin was born in 1826. He had been selling fried fish to London’s working-class heroes on the streets of London’s impoverished East End since the age of 13. In 1860, Malin, an Ashkenazi Jew borrowing from Sephardic culinary traditions was finally able to open a restaurant within the echo of Bow Bells at 78 Cleveland Way. 

Joseph advertised his restaurant as selling fish, “fried in the Jewish fashion.” Although French Fries (referred to as chips in England, not to be confused with the American potato chip) were already well known, Malin dreamt up the novel idea of combining the fried fish with these sliced fried potatoes. After all, the fryer was already up and running! 

Voila! Thanks to the merging of ingenuity and necessity, the now-iconic “Fish & Chips” combo was born. 

A photo of the 1968 presentation of a centennial plaque recognizing Malin’s as the oldest Fish & Chip shoppe in London. (Photo: dbschaefer.com)

According to the National Federation of Fish Fryers, Malin’s “chippy” was the first Fish & Chip shop in all of Great Britain. By 1923, in addition to Malin, the London Post Office’s directory of Fish & Chip shop ownerships included 18 Cohens, 11 Isaacs and 11 Levys.

The next time you notice, “Fish & Chips” featured at a Kosher Restaurant, including Toronto’s Milk & Honey, Miami Beach’s Bubby’s Fish and Chips, The Fish and Chip Shop in Tel Aviv and New York City’s Turquoise, just say Geshmak!

For next year’s Hannukah homage to the oil – it’s fish and chips for me! 

Gary S. Branfman, MD studied radio, television, and film at New York City’s Queens College. Following a career in communications, he returned to school and became a board-certified plastic surgeon at the age of 38. He is the president of Congregation B’nai Israel in Victoria, Texas.

Dr. Branfman has appeared on various news organizations including “The Stream” on Al Jazeera, CBS evening news with David Begnaud and presently produces the podcast, “Never Again Live” with Meir HaLevi Weinstein.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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