Monday, July 11, 2005

Fish and Chips at Farmer Boys

If there's one thing that the British and Scots have contributed to the culinary world, it's fried foods. This delicious and dubious honor probably started with cooking potatoes in fat and has evolved (some might say "devolved") to dunking anything with batter into boiling oil and calling it a meal. Case in point: the deep fried Mars bar.

While I've never had the opportunity (or is it "misfortune") to try one, I have had a long affinity for that other fried staple of Anglo-cuisine; fish and chips. Give the whole mess a few squirts of malt vinegar, some lemon, maybe tartar sauce and I'll be in a deep fried bliss.

The best fish and chips I've ever had (since I've never been to England) was in the most British city in New Zealand; Christchurch.

There, at a hole-in-the-wall near City Centre, is what the Lonely Planet guide rightfully proclaims as the best and cheapest fish and chips in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The chips were short and stubby; think OreIda but half as lengthy. But unlike OreIda, which has a strange caramel-like hue, the chips I had in Christchurch were uniformly bright canary yellow, with a consistent crisp texture and fluffy interior. And you won't come across a single soggy chip in the pile.

The batter on the fish was cooked to a light brown crust that was lacy and delicate but structurally rigid. Because of the rigidity of the crust, even a liberal soaking of malt vinegar did nothing to alter its solid crunch. Breaking through it revealed a moist and flaky fish. Perfect fry technique also left the product with no residual grease. I relished the experience since I knew I would not find it done quite so properly again in the states.

And I was right.

However, when I have to make do, the "Fish and Fries" at Farmer Boys is a satisfying, albeit, a pale facsimile.

First I have to respect Farmer Boys for not calling their dish "Fish and Chips" because it simply is not. The "chips" that you get are, of course, the same fries that accompany their hamburger. These are standard frozen fries that have a decent texture but a short half-life; they wilt and limp if not eaten hot.

The fish is a whole fillet, probably haddock, dipped in batter before immersion in the fryer, but as with the fries, the crunchy batter surrenders easily to a malt vinegar soaking. The steam from the fish also makes the batter soft if you wait too long before noshing. Also, once in a while, you might get a greasy one.

But for a price point of around $5 (for three generous pieces of fish and a plateful of fries), I still think Farmer Boys does one of the best fish and fries in O.C. Perhaps there's more authentic fish and chips to be found in a local British pub somewhere, but I bet you'll be paying twice as much. Keep in mind that even the best chip shops in London and New Zealand never charge more than $5 per serving.

It is, after all, still deep fried food.

Farmer Boys Tustin
(714) 730-2264
171 E 1st St
Tustin, CA 92780

*UPDATE (January 21, 2007): The Tustin Farmer Boys is no longer in business.


At 2:28 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

The fish they use is Pollock (sp?). it would be better if they used cod. but I find the fish & chips there really good. You should try the Fish & Chips at Steer Inn. Really good as well. And you get real think steak fries which are awesome!

At farmer boys you get the "burger fries" when you order the fish and chips, but if you order the dinner platter you get the "special" steak fries. I think these taste like ASS so i always request the burger fries instead. I love the yellow fries at these places!

When you get the "dinner" you get more fish, fries, and 2 onion rings and a salad. When I dine with Mrs. Dog we get ONE of these and split it. it works out cheaper that way and its plenty of food.. We share a extra large Iced tea as well. Damn are we cheap!

At 2:41 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Yup, I remembered your post on Farmer Boys. I concur, these are the best chips for the money around here.

I, too, share the Fish and Fries (not the "dinner") and it's enough for two. And afterwards there is still some room for dessert!

At 11:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are ever in the San Pedro area, try the fish and chips at the Whale & Ale British Pub. They use a huge piece of fresh cod and Bass Ale batter. The fish is a beautiful deep golden brown crisp while bright white and moist inside. It is not the cheapest (~$15 IIRC) but definitely the best in LA county

At 11:07 PM, Blogger OC Paul said...

Farmer Boys has the BEST breakfast burritos out there! Instead mushy scrambled eggs and refried beans like most places, their burrito is layered with a thin, flavorful omelette and crispy hashbrowns and your choice of bacon, sausage or taco meat. They make it to order so it's well worth the wait.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Agness said...

You don't happen to remember where this Chch F&C place was, or its name, do you? We're looking for a good place located downtown, and having not much luck so far.

At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately that Farmer Boys has closed, it's not a Johns Place or something like that, and they have some kickass breakfast burritos.

I'm sure the Farmer Boys over on 17th in Santa Ana has the same Fish and Fries though if you ever are looking for them again.

At 5:35 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

The Farmer Boys on 17th that was close to this one has also closed.
That sucks because I really liked this place and n ow I have to go to the IE to enjoy one.

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Viagra Online said...

It's an excellent dish, I really recommend it, specially if you want to eat something different. British and Scots are the best in this culinary art, and we already know that.


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