The fried potatoes are called chips in British usage; while American English calls them french fries, the combination is nonetheless called fish and chips even in the US. (Potato chips, an American innovation, are an entirely different food, known as crisps in the UK.)
Eating deep-fried fish became popular in London and the south-east in the middle of the 19th Century (Charles Dickens mentions a "fried fish warehouse" in Oliver Twist) whilst in the north of England a trade in deep-fried "chipped" potatoes developed. It is unclear when and where these two trades were merged to become the fish and chip shop industry we know today.
In the UK, the chips are often served with malt vinegar or onion juice. (In many cases something called "non-brewed condiment", which is actually a solution of acetic acid in water with caramel added for colour, is used as a substitute for genuine malt vinegar.) They are typically salted but this can usually be varied according to requirements. Another popular dressing is ketchup, though many chip shops charge extra for this. Often mushy peas are added. Fish and chips were traditionally packaged with an inner white paper wrapping and an outer insulating layer of newspaper, though nowadays the use of newspaper is banned on grounds of hygiene, and newsprint (unprinted newspaper paper) is used instead. Polystyrene packing, usual in many other kinds of take-away outlet, is sometimes encountered nowadays.
In the US, malt vinegar (or, in less well-informed establishments, red wine or cider vinegar) is often served with the combination as well.
Tartar sauce is also a common accompaniment. Mayonnaise is popular in Europe and brown sauce in Scotland. A common Canadian preference is for white vinegar on the chips and squeezed lemon on the fish.
The most common fish used for fish and chips is cod, but many kinds of fish are used, especially other White fish such as pollock or haddock. Chip shops also sometimes sell other deep-fried foods, anything from chicken to pineapple. In Australia the type of fish most commonly used is called flake, which is shark meat.
US fast food Restaurant chains that sell fish and chips include Long John Silver's, H. Salt Fish and Chips, Arthur Treacher's, and, in the Pacific Northwest, Ivar's. In the 1990s, the perception within the United States that fish and chips were unhealthy led to a decline in consumption and the financial problems of Long John Silver's and Arthur Treacher's. These brands have been accquired by other restaurants and the current strategy of both of these chains appears to be combining fish and chips with other brands to create the concept of fun food.
In the UK, fish and chips are usually sold by independent restaurants (one of the most famous being the Magpie Cafe in Whitby) and take-aways colloquially known as chippies (chippie is a pejorative term for a prostitute in American English), but there is one well-known chain based in the north of England called Harry Ramsden's. Roughly about 25% of all the white fish consumed in the UK, and 10% of all potatoes, are sold through fish and chip outlets.
The pronunciation of fish and chips is a traditional method of distinguishing Australians and New Zealanders (see New Zealand English).
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