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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 16:27 GMT
Top UK dish 'hooked French first'
Fish and chips
Fish and chips is a traditional seaside meal
It is thought to be the quintessential British meal, but new research claims the original idea for fish and chips came from Jewish and French dishes.

A study of the multicultural nature of UK cuisine suggests the meal was influenced by immigrants 150 years ago.

Professor Panikos Panayi of Leicester's De Montfort University has begun a 6,000 research project to investigate the global influence on British food.

He said fish and chips mixed "French frites with Jewish fish dishes".

Mr Panayi's research is expected to last two to three years and his findings will be published in a book called The Spicing Up of English Life.

It's very interesting to hear the professor's findings on the origins of the ingredients that are still... a great British tradition
Harry Ramsden's spokeswoman
He said: "In the middle of the 19th century the main concern of most sections of English society consisted of eating enough food of sufficient quality to stay alive, rather than displaying a concern about variety.

"Transformations between 1850 and 1945 included the emergence of fish and chips, influenced by both French and Jewish culinary traditions.

He said the origins of the dish were complex, but probably came about from the combination of French frites with Jewish fish dishes.

"It certainly isn't the traditional British food people might think, and of course the meal is often enjoyed with a cup of tea - the best example of the influence of the Empire on English eating and drinking habits."

Fish and chips restaurant Harry Ramsden's serves 20,000 portions per day across Britain.

A spokeswoman said: "It's very interesting to hear the professor's findings on the origins of the ingredients that are still, and we're sure will always be, a great British tradition."

Mr Panayi has urged people who arrived in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s to contact him to help him with his research.

The project will also examine the arrival of ice cream and pork with Italian and German immigrants and the effect of the first Indian and Chinese restaurants.

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