The Hyper-Regional Chippy Traditions of Britain and Ireland

Pie barms, Bolognese chips, red pudding, chip spice, and the Justin Bieber Haggis Supper

In the Inception of regional fish and chips, the first level is the fish and chips itself ─ fishing patterns and taste tends to carve Britain and Ireland into cod and haddock, with skate and rock perhaps more common in the south than the north. Chips are differentiated by the type of cooking fat; beef dripping traditionally, especially in the north, while the south, particularly London, prefers a blonder chip (perhaps the influence of Cypriots who stewarded the national dish and brought a fresher, Mediterranean frying style). Go down a level and you have condiments: the south doesn’t understand wetness and is content with mayo and ketchup, but in Wales and the north you have lineages of gravy and curry sauce, with vinegary brown sauce the condiment of choice in Scotland. Then the third level is the fish substitutes: sausage in batters, saveloys, smokies, puddings and pies. You can define whole swathes of countries by whether they know what scraps or a potato scallop is. Linguistically too ─ fish and chips or fish suppers; chippies, chip shops or chippers, these are all broadly regional variants that each of us insist is the correct version.

However, that’s not what today’s newsletter about. The level I’m interested in is further down; traditions that are specific to a county, or to a city, or to a part of a city, or perhaps even to a single chip shop, regional traditions that sometimes we don’t even realise are regional traditions until we leave our homes and can’t find them, or until we live in another city and realise what we’ve been missing. Like other national dishes ─ ramen, pho, pizza, barbecue ─ fish and chips is hyper-regional ─ the fact that it’s just different things deep fried in batter doesn’t change this. Each of the following 19 dishes is local history on a polystyrene tray (even if that history is someone working out the cheapest and most economical way to feed lots of drunk students on a night out).

Bolognese chips ─ Newcastle, by Annie Lord

On some nights, when there’s a big hole opening up wide and furious in your stomach you need to fill lit with what it needs. When I’m in London this means a chicken shish with extra garlic sauce; as a student in Newcastle, this meant Bolognese chips.

Greasy and meaty, Bolognese chips involves one layer of thick-cut chips, a layer of cheese, a layer of Bolognese sauce, and then a final layer of cheese, all heated up in the microwave for thirty seconds. You tend to notice flavours more when they’re paired with something they shouldn’t go with. In this case: potato where there should be pasta, meat sauce where there should be ketchup. Set in a new context, the flavours of Bolognese chips get down on their knees and crawl down to deeper levels. Afterwards you feel heavy. Comatose. When you get up to leave you have to bend over to make extra space for the meal to sit in your stomach.

After my first year of university I headed back to my parent’s house in Leeds . I was on a smoke-filled dancefloor listening to a dubstep remix of Adele's Set Fire to the Rain when I felt the big hole opening up in me again, growling for a fatberg-sized mound of carbs. I ended up following my friends into the golden arches. Each burger was too light and airy in my mouth, it felt like cloud food. I missed Bolognese chips. The thickness as it sank down my throat, puddled at the bottom of my gut, making me wonder when might be a good time to tell the taxi driver that he’s going to have to pull over because I’m about to throw up.

the author after 1 (one) Bolognese chips

Pastie supper ─ Belfast, by James Unson

A pastie, not to be confused with a Cornish pasty, is meat, potatoes, herbs and spices shaped into a patty then battered and fried. Often with the addition of pink colouring which turns the meat the colour of a packet of Prawn Cocktail crisps. Essentially a croquette disguised as a monstrosity. Like many other Northern Irish dishes (boxty, jambon, fifteens), they are a phenomenon, and therefore entirely unknown in the rest of the UK.

The first time I ordered a pastie supper ─ a pastie with chips ─ I was 13 and got it because I didn’t have enough change for anything more expensive. I was guided by a confidant to always add extra salt and vinegar on the pastie to cut through the unctuousness. I slowly grew fond of pastie; as a Filipino, I was brought up eating hot dogs and spam and this mysterious looking meat-thing fooled me, or at least reminded of my go to meals at home: Filipino frankfurters and embutido. This dual culinary heritage unraveled a cultural bridge for me. It made me feel at home. Or maybe it was just the extra vinegar?

photo credit

Salt and Pepper Everything ─ Liverpool, by Gabrielle de la Puente

I just got off my Monday night Houseparty with the cousins which we’ve been having every week since lockdown began and I mentioned that I’d been asked to write about Liverpool’s ‘salt and pepper chips tradition’ but that… “I didn’t know we had one?”. They blew up. “We are in the golden triangle of Chinese chippies, how did you not know this?”

God bless me for thinking everyone has it this good. Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in Europe and I have just grown up with these hybrid Scouse-Chinese dishes, never deeping my luck. Salt and pepper ribs and chicken wings came first, but customers wanted it with chips as well and eventually the constant requests made it onto the menu of takeaways and restaurants alike. Around my Nan’s in L8 alone has Kevins, the Lucky Star, Chius, KKs, Lee’s, Leung Sang, Ringo’s, Hang Fung; and more and more for days. It’s food on full volume, and Kevin - whoever he is - can have my hand in marriage because of the inexplicable little brown balls of garlic mixed through the menu that make me want to cry.

Salt and pepper is a category in itself now, so you can get the magic treatment on anything. I took salt and pepper sui mai to my Nan in the hospital once. We eat lightly crisped and sweetened salt and pepper chicken wings at family parties, but it’s on ribs, fish, bean curd, whatever. Honestly, it just makes everything in the world taste better.

photo by Jonathan Nunn, who would like to point out you can get salt and pepper chips at Tasty House and Lucky Dog in south London

Pie Barm ─ Wigan, by Vanessa Peterson

I’ve lived in London for 6 years, and therefore have spent a lot of time asking chippies if they sell gravy and getting increasingly frustrated with the answer. I didn’t bother asking about the chippy teas of my childhood as I knew that would be a stretch. My mother - who worked in Wigan - often brought different treats home after work on a Friday. My favourite was the pie barm (which has recently found viral internet fame as the Wigan Kebab), similar to the chip barm, but replacing the potato with a pie. I have yet to find many ways of replicating those chippy teas here; you can get a pie anywhere, of course, but it just doesn’t compare.

As I write this, I now haven’t been home for 265 days. In lieu of seeing my loved ones, I’ve been forced to settle for food substitutes. A trip to a chippy in Haggerston offered the most comforting treat of all: chips and gravy. I was reminded of walking home from school in winter where I’d stop off for a chip barm with a little bit of gravy to warm up, dropping half of it in a failed attempt to eat and walk simultaneously. For now, I’ll have to make do with what feels like the next best thing until I can return home: a long walk with the hottest chips with the thickest gravy I can find.

photo credit r/nerfdan

Faggot and pea batch ─ Coventry, by Tommy Corns

The frustration of having to correct yourself, through gritted teeth, when referring to a soft white round batch as a barm/cob/roll/bap, is the thorn in any kid from Coventry’s side. It is often met with a range of emotions ranging from looks of bewilderment right through to straight up ridicule, but in this instance I’m right, it’s a batch. It’s a faggot and pea batch.

Up until our palates embraced the spicy delights of the kebab, the faggot and pea batch was the go to post pub/football/work stomach liner. Readily available, whether it be direct from the butchers, at batch bars, or at the chippy, it consisted of faggots (minced pigs’ offal with some sage and onion, wrapped in caul fat) with onion gravy, and a generous layer of mushy peas sandwiched between a soft batch.

As the working class of the 70s and 80s have graduated, and daft things have happened to Coventry like the city losing its football team, or the council transforming the city center into a university campus, these traditions are slowly moving outside of the city into the country, where they will live on. Their Coventry heyday may be over, but still, if you look past the cod and chips at any chippy worth their salt here, you’ll just about find it on the menu: seldomly ordered but fondly remembered.

Cumbrian patties ─ Cumbria, by Jonathan Swain

It's cold. Northern cold. Another evening in a job I hate, waiting for a late bus. It’s February and the year has already shown enough to crush any hope of renewal. The terminus is opposite the chippie. After, I'll cut through Vulcan Park, though tonight the wind will come keening across the expanse. But first, I need to indulge - I will seek comfort in patties.

Cumbria is patty country, a local institution largely unknown outside the county ─ at least in this variant. For the uninitiated, they’re everything you need from a chippie: mash moulded around stoutly seasoned mince, battered and deep fried. Two fingers thick and just the right amount of greasy: a gutsy revelation.

It’s that basic ─ your proverbial 'meat and potatoes' and wantonly calorific. There are variations but happily, they all cover your three essential chippie food groups: the meaty, the starchy, the battered.

Locals take patties seriously, travelling miles for the best. Perhaps they were created for the fanged winds of the Cumbrian coast, because I've never found anything down South so perfectly engineered to repel the cold. And they tell that eternal truth: however ‘complicated’ or wretched things can seem, there is solace in the wrong type of food.

photo credit Paolo’s Chippy in Carlisle

Deep Fried Mars Bar ─ Stonehaven, by Richard Scott

The story of the deep-fried Mars bar began in 1992, in a small town near Aberdeen called Stonehaven, with one teenager daring another to go into local fish bar The Haven and request the chocolate bar be battered and fried. Three years later, and Keith Chegwin was eating the dish live on The Big Breakfast.

Nearly three decades in, and hundreds are still sold weekly, all but one of the town’s four chip shops listing it on their menu. There’s been a failed attempt at gaining EU protected food name status, and a failed attempt by Aberdeenshire council to remove a banner advertising it in the town centre, it apparently being “detrimental” to Stonehaven’s image. In 2015, long after he dreamt the thing up as a schoolboy, Jon Davie admitted he’d never eaten a deep-fried Mars bar, and didn’t think he ever would. Name me another foodstuff whose creator hasn’t tried it and doesn’t want to?

The story of the deep-fried Mars bar is one of schoolchildren, drunk locals and tourists continuing a lineage of dares. It is often conflated with the infamous Glasgow effect health theory, Glasgow being a city who have stolen the dish and proclaimed it their own with some success, at one point even putting one into a calzone.

Raised in Stonehaven, I actively avoid going anywhere near a certain chip shop by Glasgow Central Station which is especially vocal in its charlatanry, knowing my blood pressure will rise in its vicinity. This is the paradox of the deep-fried Mars Bar – I sort of hate it, but like most locals am on the defensive as soon as the central belt cities or worst of all, Dundee, are mentioned in the same breath. Tribalism all for a food which nobody particularly wants to eat.

The Justin Bieber Haggis Special ─ Glasgow, by Steven Young

Much as an ancient king of Babylon (Ezekiel 21:21) sought to discern the truth in liver, the world around us can still be read in offal – near enough any historic recipe is an account not just of what to put on a plate, but an account of the land around it; the spices available, the animals being farmed. The need to use every bit of the animal is the need of families to survive. The haggis chip supper is a story of Glasgow.

In 2016, the Blue Lagoon ripped up history and renamed it the Justin Bieber Haggis Special ─ presumably in perpetuity ─ in celebration of Justin Bieber’s post-Hydro tea. Four years on, the name if anything has only grown in resonance – standing in for the time when Justin Bieber touring internationally was not only legal, but posed only a minimal risk to public health.

The history the Justin Bieber Haggis Special speaks to is contested. For some, it demeans an important part of Scotland's heritage, coming up against the conviction that the traditional savoury pudding shouldn't need a pop-star to push it. It speaks to a curious lack of confidence in what should be the menu's heart, a refusal to let Scotland's culinary heritage stand on its own.

The Justin Bieber Haggis Special sounds another warning - of the fallibility of local memory, of traditions that - once probed - collapse faster than a Soufflé Diana: the CCTV quite clearly shows Justin ordering, and tucking into, battered haddock. Maybe he had his security detail pick it up a second portion incognito? It seems more likely that Blue Lagoon instead identified that the 'Justin Bieber Battered Haddock' didn't have much of a ring to it. I think it speaks to a sense of ownership: battered haggis and chips is Glasgow's to do with what it will, and if that's giving it a bizarrely long-lived semi-ironic name, so be it.

The Justin Bieber Haggis Special may be a lie, but this is Glasgow; when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Imli Chips ─ Rochdale, by Yasmin Jaunbocus

There were two chippies in Royton, with queues snaking around them almost every day. However, neither of these two chippies were the ones my family frequented. Instead, we would pile into our Toyota Corolla, and trundle past the rows of Victorian terraces and mill towers towards Rochdale. Rochdale has a significant Pakistani community, and travelling there for mum to stock up from the cash and carry with fresh coriander, mint and vegetables like chow chow, was as much of a weekly pilgrimage as Dad doing his Friday prayers at the mosque nearby.

The real salvation though, was the International Chippy. Here, the chips were fat: a mixture of crispy and soggy, pale gold bars of potato, lying squidged together in paper, and importantly, not cooked in beef dripping or lard so making them halal. The aroma of frying chips was accented with hints of spice from their other specialties like thick chicken pieces, sindoor red from the tandoori marinade and flaky white fish pulled through masala batter and fried. It was their imli chips however that ensured we travelled upwards of half an hour to eat.

The polystyrene tray would first have a layer of those chips before being doused in imli sauce. A mix of tangy tamarind, chilli and spice - water thin - to soak into the steaming chips. Then shredded cabbage, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, onion: the colours bleeding into each other but more importantly, they provided texture contrast from the crispy mash of chip and crunch and freshness against the partnered imli. Finally, a cooling mint yoghurt, creamy and rich against the other textures and flavours. They’d essentially pani puri’d the English chippy.

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October 13, 2020

The Spice Bag ─ Dublin, by Sarah Doorley

My sisters started dropping spice bags into conversation a few years ago, after they had moved into a flat together in Dublin. I had been away from home since before the bags’ invention at a Chinese takeaway called Sunflower in Templeogue, but was still embarrassed to have to ask what they were talking about – it only gave away how I grasp after my own Irish-ness these days.

A spice bag (or mála spíosrach if you’re ordering as gaelige) is a mixture of chips, stir fried onions, peppers, Sichuan peppercorns and chilli, and bits of fried chicken all dusted with a mystery salty, spicy mix and served in a bag. First appearing in 2012, they were the go to late night order in Dublin within a couple of years and have since been declared Ireland’s favourite takeaway order by JustEat in 2018 and 2019 (2020 is yet to be announced). I can’t pretend to understand how they caught the national imagination, all I know is there is apparently universal agreement that they are very, very tasty.

Before I wrote this I sent my little sister some annoying questions. Like, are spice bags better from a Chinese takeaway or a chipper? I’m guessing from a takeaway, because chipper chips tend to be fatter and softer. I assume you want a good crisp chip so the spice mix can cling without melting. She puts me off until she has time to think; I’m impatient, and hungry. I’ll have to wait until the travel quarantine is lifted so I can go home and she can take me out to try one for myself.

Trí mhalaí spíosrach, le do thoil. Go raibh maith agat.

photo credit Roberta Doorley

Jamaican patties and chips ─ Birmingham, by Elainea Emmott

A Brummie’s first taste of the Caribbean is often from the chippy, seeing a turmeric-yellow Jamaican Patty nestled close to the chips and saveloys. The Jamaican patty is particularly ubiquitous in Birmingham, sold not just from Caribbean takeaways, but from chippies, local corner shops as well as major supermarkets. The unusual popularity of the patty here should probably be attributed to Wade Lyn, a Jamaican entrepreneur who arrived in Britain in the 1960’s with his parents, and whose Hockley-based Island Delights is the biggest patty producer in the UK.

The patty’s history dates back to colonialism when traditional island recipes combined with the English introduction of the Cornish Patty in the Caribbean. It was then brought to England by Black immigrants arriving on the Empire Windrush in the 1940’s. I can imagine them eating this comforting pocket sized meal, each mouthful giving a taste of spice and home.

Conversely, my family’s visit to the chippy whilst growing up was the only English food that ever came into our Jamaican home, and permitted only after the cornmeal porridge and fried dumplings. We got the patties but never bought the saveloy or mushy peas ─ the idea of both remains incomprehensible to me.

Chips, cheese, gravy/curry and rissole ─ Cardiff, by Angela Hui

If chips, cheese and curry or gravy sauce is a Cardiff delicacy, Caroline Street (aka Chippy Lane or Chippy Alley) is its spiritual home, a deep-fried beige Mecca with a bountiful choice of fast-food offerings from fish and chip shops to kebab shops, and even a mafia-run steakhouse that stays open until 4am. It’s become so famous, in fact, it’s the Old Kent Road equivalent on the Cardiff edition of Monopoly.

Every night on Chippy Alley, hand-cut chips with plasticky shredded cheese are topped with either hot curry or gravy sauce, and as the cheese melts it coagulates into a homogenous stodgy unit. Precariously perched on top of blob mountain is a golden rissole. Italians settled in South Wales in the 18th century and brought a whole host of very welcome culinary delights, one of them being rissoles. A deep-fried orb made up of mashed potato, diced onion, thyme and corned beef rolled into a ball and coated in luminous bright orange breadcrumbs. It’s no secret that the Welsh love corned beef, so much so that there’s even an ongoing campaign for it to be the Welsh national dish.

Let’s be honest though, no one actually eats anything from this strip of takeaways sober and the quality is questionable.

Editor’s note: I have eaten from Chippy Alley stone cold sober and would do it again

Chippy Alley is a black hole for the inebriated. It has an inexplicable gravitational pull sucking everything towards it at the end of a night; a place where all walks of life come together in drunken unison. Whether you’re a hen, stag, student, rugby lad, tourist or passerby, everyone sets aside their differences whilst someone bursts into song singing the Welsh national anthem. A night ending in Chippy Alley is a sign of a good night out.

Hull Patties and Chip Spice ─ Hull, by Jessica Beckitt

Men in Hull FC scarves holding hand written lists; teenagers gesturing through steamed up windows to mates on pushbikes outside; kids clasping crisp £10 notes sent to get the tea in. ‘Pattie butty and chips please – and can I have scraps?’ On top goes a breadcake split and lathered with butter, and clamped firmly around a fat and golden pattie: a perfect disc of deep fried mashed potato seasoned with salt, pepper, dried onion and, crucially, sage, along with a deeply savoury note that only a chip shop fryer (and tallow) can give.

Every chip shop in Hull has its own closely guarded recipe for patties. Created in the 1800’s as cheap fuel for trawlermen, factory workers and fish wives, you don’t ‘make’ patties you ‘slap’ them. There was an entire generation of generously forearmed women known as ‘the pattie slappers’ who ventured out to feed the city armed with uncooked patties and barrels of cooking oil.

If you’re from Hull you’ll also be familiar with a remarkable seasoning called ‘American Chip Spice’, a paprika and garlic-flavoured seasoned salt designed to be added liberally to fresh, hot chips. It magically adheres itself to every millimetre of chip surface area and is like a taste bud defibrillator for drunk people. I took two tubs to university and used neither of them. It didn’t matter, as simply stashing it in my room was a comfort; an orange-stained postcard from a hard and resilient little city.

The King Creole ─ Cork, by Mark Comerford

The people of Cork have, over the years, bestowed upon themselves nicknames as self-aggrandising as “The Real Capital of Ireland” and “The People’s Republic of Cork.” With such a severe superiority complex, it’s no wonder that even the counties chippers have embraced that competitive nature, creating an environment of endless one-upmanship.

Cork’s chippers have a treasure-trove of fresh produce on their doorstep and use them to great effect. The Golden Fry pride themselves on using high quality, local produce including mincing their own 28 days, dry-aged, on-the-bone beef for their patties and pies. At L’Escale in the west of the county you can enjoy a lobster supper: buttery lobster tail, crispy claws, chips, mushy peas and an amazing fritter of lobster scraps, mushy peas, and potatoes.

Yet the true innovation of Cork’s chippers is form, not content. At Jackie Lennox’s you can find Cork’s beef and potato patty and the mushy pea fritter. Murphy’s have created the “Sloppy Foley,” taco meat, sauce, cheese and chips in a wrap – the perfect hangover cure. But these are all outflanked by KC’s where their provenanceless speciality, “King Creole,” reigns supreme – Cajun chicken breast pieces with mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce and chips inside ─ beloved by all, and missed by the Cork diaspora everywhere.

Orange Chips ─ The Black Country, by Rose Dymock

The borders of the Black Country are pretty fluid, depending on who you ask. 

Whether they are convinced that Wolverhampton has no right to claim Black Country heritage, or are sure that Walsall counts as a part of this relatively unknown region, there is pretty much one thing that will unite everyone who calls this part of the country home: orange chips. 

Orange, or battered, chips are a staple of almost every chip shop in the area. Take your normal chunky chip shop chips, cover them in thick, orange batter and deep fry them to perfection. What gives them this luminous, distinctive colour is usually a closely guarded secret, passed down from generation to generation, but it’s generally accepted that it’s either turmeric or paprika.

Much like the Black Country (Yam Yam) dialect, and the scallop line, battered chips are hyper-specific in their locality – you won’t get them in a Birmingham chip shop, despite how close and similar these areas might seem to an outsider. People are proud to be part of the Black Country – and definitely not Brummies – and orange chips are our own special delicacy. They might not be fancy, or even very pretty, but once you’ve had them you’ll never want to go back to the pale, non-battered variety. 

Battered everything ─ Aberdeenshire/Edinburgh, by Emma Lawrie

A chipper (never “chippie”) supper was the ultimate treat as a child in Aberdeenshire: fish supper each and a fried pudding of choice (white for me!) to split. Having the chipper as a lunch option in high school opened up a smorgasbord of meatier options from the cheaper end of the menu that your precious £2.50 lunch money could stretch to. Chip steaks (deep fried battered hamburgers), Mock chops (the same but pork and rectangular), and the lesser seen red pudding, which you’ll only find north of Fife, real butchers sweepings stuff that would satisfy a teenage craving for grease. For an optional desert, they would batter any chocolate bar you handed over for £1.

Moving to Edinburgh as a student offered a new set of takeaway options that I would never have dreamed of but always lacked the true taste of home that I had assumed was Scotland wide. There was always a surprise Edinburgh twist to it that reminded me I’d actually escaped the Shire. Tasting their infamous ‘broon’ Salt n Sauce for the first time was an absolute revelation: sweet, vinegary and runny, even if it is just watered down brown sauce.

As I’ve got older, my taste for batter has only increased: entire pizza crunches, inexplicably double sausage suppers and the wonder that is haggis pakora put anything I ate for school lunch to shame. The humble pickled onion is the latest offering to get a battered and deep fried makeover north of the border. I’d be lying if I said I wasn't curious.

Cheese, Chips and Beans ─ Weymouth, by Melissa Thompson

photography note: no publishable photo could be found of this eldritch horror

Weymouth’s legacy dish it is not the seafood you’d expect from its coastal location, nor a meal to best celebrate the beautiful produce grown and reared in the verdant Dorset countryside. But it meant as much to me.

Every weekend, after a night sweatily dancing at Verdi’s, my favourite club, we’d head to Scoffer’s. Even the drunken fights outside would not distract me as I ordered the holy trinity: cheese, chips and beans.

Fat chip shop chips - fries are a no-no - baked beans (I’d always ask for extra juice), and grated cheese. Vinegar too. The key to peak enjoyment was to wait 15 minutes or so before tucking in. Long enough for the cheese to melt, but not so long for it to cool and coagulate. Each mouthful offered something different. A chip from the edge of the orange polystyrene box, tangy with vinegar and cheese. Or one from right in the middle, sodden with cheesy bean juice. 

I’ve never seen this dish properly done anywhere else. Once, on a night out in Hastings, East Sussex I ordered it. Looking down at the sad box of fries, beans and two cheap cheese slices, I felt a pang of longing for my hometown. 

???? ─ London, by Jonathan Nunn

Despite being the city where fish and chips may have been invented by Sephardic Jews, London has almost no specific fish and chip traditions of its own. You wonder if London’s lack of identity could have been turned on its head: the capital city of a union of four countries would be an ideal repository for the food traditions it supposedly represents, full of chippies offering the taste of the United Kingdom.

But perhaps this would be disastrous. London would be amok with street food vendors coming back from university offering “a taste of the North”, their websites describing their first exotic whiff of tallow; Heart of Darkness origin stories with the Tyne as the Mekong. Unscrupulous Northern entrepreneurs would rebrand the patty and swindle tourists and credulous southerners alike. Someone would try to gentrify gravy.

The dearth of great chippies here means that regional dishes stay regional, as they should, and London then becomes a blank slate for something true to its character to sprout up unexpectedly. At Fish Plaice in Bloomsbury last week I noticed something on the menu: Korean fried chicken. A half and half of dakgangjeon (garlic/soy) and buldak (blow your head off chilli), with chip shop chips doused in marinade. Finally, wet chips in London. All it takes is for someone else to notice and you have a new tradition on your hands: yangnyeom chips.

Smack barm pey wet ─ The Internet, by Tom Whyman

There is a utopian promise in those much-memed words, ‘smack barm pey wet’. For the Americans who ridiculed that viral video of the man from Joe eating a ‘Wigan kebab’, ‘smack barm pey wet’ was hilarious on the basis that they assumed all the food everywhere in England was like this. “Oi guvnor I’m just taking me lorry to Tesco to nick a smack barm pey wet.”

But for a British person, especially one like me who has never tried it, they speak of a beautiful possibility: that in fact, things both can be, and are still, different. That in one of the most centralised, homogenised nations in the world, there can still exist in places like chip shops something like a genuine regional culinary diversity – that this is still permitted. Items that people local to the area might take for granted, like they’re just something you’d get in any chip shop, anywhere, but which people arriving from outside, gazing up at the menu on which nothing beyond the prices is explained, might in some instances have no idea what they were getting. Items with names like ‘pattie’, or ‘smokey’, or ‘scraps’. Parmos, pease pudding, or the practise of putting Bolognese sauce on chips. Simply stuffing a pie in a bap. Like all great food, the things that make a place, a place.


All contributors to this article were paid or waived their fee

Annie Lord is a writer based in London. Her work has appeared in the The New Statesman, The Independent and Vice, and she is a columnist at Vogue.

James Unson is a Filipino chef raised in Northern Ireland and currently based in London.

Gabrielle de la Puente is a writer based in Liverpool and the co-founder of The White Pube. Her fee was matched by Vittles and donated to food banks in Liverpool and London

Vanessa Peterson is a writer, editor and photographer based in London

Tommy Corns is a Coventry-born baker, now based in Amsterdam

Jonathan Swain writes The Plate Licked Clean blog and co-runs He comes from a family of Spanish restaurateurs and winemakers and has no time for people who mispronounce 'chorizo'.

Richard Scott is from Stonehaven and has been London-based, working in food since 2012. He’s mainly (only?) interested in Aberdeen Football Club, his cat, lager shandies and fried food.

Steven Young is a writer and editor based in Leith.

Yasmin Jaunbocus is a food, drink & restaurant PR based in London.

Sarah Doorley works for a creative agency in Edinburgh. This is her first published piece of writing but she would like to write more. You can find her on Instagram: @sarahdoorley. Sarah’s fee was donated to the Irish Refugee Council

Elainea Emmott is a chef and photographer based in London. You can find her on Instagram at @emmottelainea

Angela Hui is a freelance journalist, writer, and editor. Her work has appeared in Eater London, Huffington Post, Independent, Time Out, Vice, among other publications.

Jessica Beckitt is a home baker living in Oxfordshire. You can find her on Instagram as @bluefenugreek

Mark Comerford is a food journalist at Look out for his blog “No Eggs, No Milk, No Problem.”

Rose Dymock is a film and culture writer originally from the Black Country. Her interests are multilingual cinema, feminism and thrillers. You can find more of her work at and follow her on Twitter @rosedymock.

Emma Lawrie is a designer living in south east London and is always thinking about her next meal. You can find her on Instagram @emmalawrie

Melissa Thompson runs the food and recipe project Fowl Mouths which you can find on Instagram

Jonathan Nunn is a writer based in London and the editor of Vittles.

Tom Whyman is a writer and philosopher who lives in the north east of England.