When you think of fish and chips, the classic combination of batter fried cod or haddock and thick cut fries, the first countries that come to mind are probably the U.K. and Ireland. However, Iceland is giving the traditional fried fish powerhouses a run for their money with their own lighter take on the classic.
With the opening of beloved Reykjavik institution Icelandic Fish & Chips’ first American location on June 25th, we knew it was time to finally explain the differences between the classic UK style and Iceland’s updated take. Beware, you might want to have a snack handy before you begin.
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A fishy history of Iceland and the UK’s relationship
During an 18-year period (1958-1976) known as the ‘Cod Wars,’ Iceland continued to expand its maritime jurisdiction surrounding the island much to the chagrin of the United Kingdom (remember, these two nations are less than 1,000 miles apart). After years of completely peaceful conflict, but one that undoubtedly included much verbal disagreement, Iceland became the first country in the world to declare an extension of their maritime jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles offshore and in the process set an international precedent.
Iceland follows strict requirements for fishing sustainability.
Icelandic fishing occurs in both the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans, which are some of the cleanest in the world. Fishing practices are strictly monitored through a quota system to ensure sustainability in compliance with international industry standards and are estimated to be especially low. While the waters around the UK are also excellent for fishing, the standards that Iceland follows are unparalleled.
The batter styles are different.
The classic U.K. batter style is a simple mix of flour, baking soda, vinegar, salt and beer, which is added for flavor, a lighter texture. The Icelandic version on the other hand, uses spelt flour, which makes the fried fish even lighter and almost tempura-like. Also, no beer in the batter. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have one on the side.
The potatoes/fries/chips are served differently.
There are two key components to fish & chips: There is the fish and then, surprise surprise, we have the chips, which are not the same as French fries (chips are thicker and wider). Icelandic Fish and Chips take a slightly different route with their potatoes, which, just like the rest of their menu, are organic. The potatoes are roasted rather than fried, leaving them crispy on the outside and creamy within.
They are served with different condiments.
In the UK, there are two acceptable condiments for fish and chips: Malt vinegar and tartar sauce. Ketchup is acceptable for the chips, but don’t go too crazy with it. Icelandic Fish and Chips, however, serves their unique style with a condiment all their own, Skyronnes. This dipping sauce is made from skyr–the quintessential Icelandic soft cheese-meets-yogurt that has taken the US by storm–that is then mixed with olive oil, as well as fresh herbs and spices. Icelandic Fish and Chips still offers the Skyronnes tartar sauce, and homemade malt vinegar, but also includes more unusual flavoring options, like truffle and tarragon, coriander and lime and chili and roasted paprika.