Something fishy

A fish and chip shop menu in Australia.

Anyone for non-specific battered fish?

Things you never anticipate when you move to Australia…

Fish and chips have been a favourite family treat for the CBRbound clan for many years. Whenever we visited family and friends back in the UK, our journey from the airport usually went something like this: “What’s for dinner tonight?”

“What do you fancy?”

“Can we stop and get fish and chips?”

And so we did.

I can picture the menu now – cod, haddock, rock, plaice, scampi, cod roe – and perhaps a small tub of mushy peas to help it down.

It would be untrue to say that the draw of fish and chips was a major influence in our decision to move to Australia, but after ten years in Denmark, the prospect of easy access to some of those homely foods that we grew up with certainly figured among the minor attractions.

But of course, and I’m sure you’ve already thought of this, the oceans around Australia yield vastly different varieties of fish to those found in the North Sea and north-eastern Atlantic Ocean.

To compound the challenge, in Australia, it doesn’t seem that common for fish and chip shops to even specify which type of fish you are getting. Many menus simply offer ‘fish’, crumbed, grilled or battered. And where the species are specified, the names are unfamiliar.

Our first call at a fish and chip shop here offered the options of flake, barra or whiting. I think I went for the chicken instead, then, back at home, I started Googling translations of these strange new battered choices.

Flake, it turns out, is actually shark, while barra is short for barramundi – a variety that seems to appear on restaurant menus everywhere but which, to me, sounds like one of those outlying rebel planets in the Star Wars universe.

Meanwhile, whiting is a local fish also known as blue cod. It was given the name because of the fish’s similar look and taste to the Atlantic cod found in fish and chips shops the length and breadth of Britain.

In supermarkets, there’s a lot of hoki and Pollock too, but whiting is fairly easy to find there too. It’s become our new fish of choice – a close and convincing substitute for the cod we favoured back at home – and we’ve even found some tinned mushy peas in Coles supermarket to add that final taste of home. With bread and butter, of course.

On another note, my little blog passed its first anniversary this week. Thanks to all of you who continue to follow and comment on our journey and adventures. It’s a pleasure to have you aboard.

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5 thoughts on “Something fishy

  1. Whiting is an excellent choice. My Grandfather used to catch it from his tinnie in the waters off the coast of South Australia. Highly prized and very Australian.

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    • Oh I forgot to mention ‘flathead’ too, which, when I was younger, was a haircut, not a fish. But yes, whiting is lovely, and probably more sustainable than cod anyway.

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  2. Beat me to it, CBR Bound. I was going to say, what about flathead? I was never much of a fan of whiting and tend to avoid it at our local fish and chip shop which does tend to have a few varieties. Maybe I should give it a go. The Innes Family Boatshed at Batemans Bay always names its varieties, but you’re right that traditionally Aussie fish and chip places tend not to. I suspect that’s because of lot of them buy in pre battered “fish”. They probably have no idea what it is.

    You also referred to that intriguing business of fish names. The same fish can be given different names in different places. Very weird. And at one stage I think many shops would call “Nile perch” whatever that is, “barramundi”, which it clearly wasn’t.

    PS Just catching up on blogs after a very busy July that was supposed to be mostly holiday but turned rather to custard instead.

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    • Hi Sue, lovely to hear from you again. And actually, food labelling in general is privies bit of a minefield. As someone who is allergic to garlic (and onion), I’ve found that it is usually covered by the catch-all word ‘spices’ rather than listed specifically on packaging. In Europe it would have to be named. I hoped August is less custardy for you. Best wishes, Mark

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