Palm Harbor’s lone Bavarian-American pub, Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill, has decided to try something new. Their current menu is a hodgepodge of Bavarian and American bar food – pretzels, bratwurst, wienerschnitzel, wings, pizza, cheese fries, burgers, etc. They have also had fish & chips on their menu for many years, but they are now looking to improve upon their old recipe. But in what tradition does a Bavarian-American pub prepare their fish and chips? Generally speaking, Americans are more accustomed to British Fish & Chips, a staple bar food across the United States. Austria, however, has its own version of fish & chips, called Gebackener Fisch.
Gebackener Fisch literally translates to “baked fish” in English, but Gebackener Fisch is often fried. If you order the Gebackenes Fischfilet (another word for the same thing) at Hofbrauhaus in St. Pete, you will be served breaded and fried cod, which sounds a lot like British Fish & Chips. So what’s the difference? After spending about 30 minutes on Google, I still had no idea (If you really want to confuse the internet, try performing a search in two different languages). When 30 minutes turned into an hour, a picture was starting to emerge.
From what I can tell, it all started with a Judeo-Spanish dish called Pescado Frito in 16th century Spain. Pescado Frito, or “fried fish” in Spanish, consists of breaded and fried fish, typically cod. The dish came to England with Sephardic Jews fleeing religious persecution in the 1500’s, but it wasn’t combined with chips until 1860 by Joseph Malin, a 13-year-old Jewish boy living in London’s east end (source: The Daily Mail).
The history of Austria’s gebackener fisch is a little harder to ascertain, especially since most relevant articles are written in German. After reading about the origins of fried fish in Britain, I wonder if Sephardic Jews also brought their fried fish recipe to Austria, where it later evolved into Gebackener Fisch. Truthfully, I may never know.
Last week, Lagerhaus chef(s) made both Austrian Gebackener Fisch and British Fish & Chips in a “Battle of the Fish & Chips” at Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill in Palm Harbor, FL. Members of their loyalty club were given a sample plate with one piece of British-style fish and one piece of Austrian-style fish. After trying both, the customers were given the opportunity to vote on which of these two fish recipes they preferred.
For one day at least, Lagerhaus customers were able to order a full platter of either the British-style Fish & Chips or the Austrian Gebackener Fisch for dinner. The whole place smelled of fresh Fish & Chips from the moment we walked in. I watched one plate after another of fish dinners leave the kitchen.
Both styles were great preparations of Haddock. The British Fish & Chips consisted of two generous filets of Haddock, beer battered and fried to perfection, served on top of a bed of fries.
The Austrian Gebackener Fisch started with the same Haddock, but it was breaded and baked instead of battered and fried. The Gebackener Fisch was served with potato salad, a more traditional accompaniment in Germany/Austria.
Which style you prefer depends on your personal taste. My favorite was the British Fish & Chips, which was on par with Cricketers in Dunedin (a local favorite), but I ordered a plate of Gebackener Fisch because I was sure the British Fish & Chips would win the vote.
The British Fish & Chips is currently winning the vote, but by a narrow margin. As of right now, you are still able to order either version of fried fish at Lagerhaus. The word is still out as to which version(s) will make it onto the permanent menu, but it’s possible they may keep both. So for the time being, the battle of the Fish & Chips rages on at Lagerhaus Brewery & Grill in Palm Harbor, FL.