Words: Shamim de Brún
Artwork: Paul Smith
Food pairing can be mental. And mental is always tremendous fun. So every week, we will bring you a new off the wall match to try. This week it’s Fish & Chips with a Pear Cider.
Sounds bananas but hear me out.
Fish & Chips is Ireland’s most crispy and comforting culinary tradition. Our love for double-dredged and deep-fried fish borders on an obsession. The aroma of salty chips wafting from a grease-stained brown paper bag sends everyone nostalgic reminders of the best nights of their childhood. We don’t even mind if our car smells like stale vinegar for two days after. That illicit sniff from the bag, while someone else drives is always a joy in and of itself.
The magic of frying creates the juiciness of Fish & Chips. Oil is bursting with flavour. Unsurprisingly deep frying adds this flavour to food. The fish batter also contributes to the overall flavour of Fish & Chips by absorbing just the right amount of oil.
It’s relatively simple food, Fish & Chips. Cod makes for a firm and thick fillet with a divine bounce. (We know there are more sustainable alternatives, but we’re treating ourselves to the original behemoth here). It has a mild, clean taste and a body that flakes beautifully. The batter adds a soft but crisp texture. In response to the initial crunch, biting into that deep-fried fish reveals a feeling of moist food melting in your mouth. It is the perfect meal: a one and one.
Cider has always been popular. From flagons in fields to handcrafted selections quaffed from a Champagne coupe, there are as many different ways to drink cider as there are occasions to do so. Unfortunately, with many different ciders available, people fail to realise that cider is a pear-fectly pear-able drink.
Pear cider – known as Perry – has a different taste from apple cider. It’s generally lighter, drier and more fragrant, a better match for delicate ingredients like fish. Also, most are modest in alcohol and rarely if ever climbing above seven per cent.
If you’re into Natural Wine, but the price tag makes you uneasy, this pairing is for you. Most contemporary Irish Perry’s are unfiltered and made with indigenous yeasts, so they give off a lot of the same flavours as a funky pet nat. That said, they don’t typically go over a tenner for a seven hundred and fifty mill bottle. You can buy a bottle of sparkling organic Perry from a small independent grower for the same price as a mass-produced prosecco, and you’ll probably enjoy it much more.
Chose whichever degree of sweetness you want, and it won’t matter if you lean into still or sparkling. This pairing will work with the whole breadth of Perry options available.
A Perry will be tight and tart against the soft greasy saltiness of the chipper dinner. Cider’s actually a pairing workhorse: it’s easy to find food that tastes great with it. Its low alcohol and carbonation help add a little light to heavy meals and prepare the palate for a new bite. Perry’s natural fruitiness pairs as well with battered fish as it does with vinegar drenched soggy chips.
The lip-puckering acid in a dry Perry cuts through batter and grease like a razor, leaving your mouth free of oil. Perry’s citrus-adjacent notes work well to counter the saline flavour of the fish, same as if you’d squeezed lemon over it.
Sweeter Perry’s will contrasts salty flavours. Fish & Chips always comes covered in salt and malt vinegar. If not, you’re a monster. The acidity in malt vinegar pairs well with sugar and helps to balance the sweetness of a traditional Perry.
Together Fish & Chips with Perry achieves what is known as resonance. Resonance is just what it sounds like; combining food and drink in a harmony so perfect they resonate with everyone.
Perry: Killahora Fine Perry from €11.50 all across the country. Pear Kopperberg from €3.50 all across the country. Sassy Cidre from €8.00 at Mitchell and Son.
Fish & Chips: stick to your local. Fish & Chips doesn’t travel well, and you know you’re in for a treat with a local chipper.
Fish Shop on Benburb is the spot to head to if you fancy next level treating yourself to this daring pairing.