Feast of the M60’s forthright views on the correct use of tomato sauce, brown sauce, and similar condiments on chips

On this sceptred isle of ours (and countless other small islands around the UK mainland), there are several things that can never fail to polarise our nation. One is the long term effects of the 1979 – 97 Conservative Government. Another is the Laurel/Yanny sound played on our radio stations this week. Or the blue/black dress dilemma which reminded me of the Father Ted “priest socks” reference.

If there is one dilemma that is set to outlast our opinions on the above, it is something that is close to our hearts. The answer lies with your nearest chippy.

“Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air…”*

In 2012, YouGov (everyone’s favourite Tory owned opinion pollsters) came up with a groundbreaking survey. For that year’s National Chip Week they asked 5,334 people about their favourite chip condiments. Across all parts of the United Kingdom (apart from Northern Ireland), salt stood head and shoulders above the rest, closely followed by vinegar and (the greatest double act of all) salt and vinegar. Second only to salt, Londoners preferred coating their chips with tomato ketchup.

Greater London was the most popular area for putting mayonnaise on chips. Scottish chip lovers were more likely to put brown sauce on their chips compared with the rest of the UK. Curry sauce was popular in Wales. As was cheesy chips in the principality, alongside Scotland. Northerners were more likely to ask for chips and gravy. Women were more likely to put mayonnaise on their chips.

Shook by both sides

Sadly, nobody from the pollsters co-owned by Nadhim Zahawi MP asked my for my opinions. Perhaps I would have complicated things further.

Why, may you ask would I have complicated things further? This gentleman is picky about his chip-based condiments. It depends on the kind of chips. I even have a hierarchal structure for chips:

  • Orient Express: local chippy chips (with dripping);
  • Northern Belle: local chippy chips (with vegetable oil);
  • First Class on the Caledonian Sleeper train: home fried chips;
  • First Class on a BR Mark III carriage: J.D. Wetherspoon oven chips (which are by McCain by the way);
  • First Class on Virgin West Coast: McCain Home Chip (Crinkle Cut Oven Chips), Aunt Bessie’s Oven Chips;
  • First Class on Arriva Cross Country (Voyager DMUs): McDonalds fries, KFC fries, Nando’s fries (with Peri Peri seasoning);
  • Second Class on a BR Mark I or early Mark II carriage: Burger King King Fries;
  • Second Class on Transpennine Express: McCain Micro Chips (or whatever they are now);
  • Second Class on Northern’s Class 156 DMUs: budget own-brand regular cut chips;
  • Class 150 Sprinter DMU, Second Class: Iceland straight cut oven chips;
  • Class 142 Pacer DMU: ASDA straight cut oven chips;
  • Class 142 Pacer DMU with Merseytravel PTE interior: burnt chips of any description.

The potato pecking order for me determines how I cover my chips. Firstly, any form of frozen chips can be enhanced by a smattering of baked bean juice. Especially Heinz Baked Beans, or Branston Baked Beans. Secondly, some chips work better with brown sauce than red sauce; crinkle cut chips taste better with tomato ketchup than brown sauce.

If we return to The Vallantanian Chip Hierarchy Chart, any chips below First Class on a Virgin West Coast train are above needing brown sauce or tomato ketchup. Above that level, or salt and vinegar suffices. Maybe gravy or curry sauce. Gravy and curry sauce with salt and vinegar can be good too.

Exceptions to the above rule apply with McDonalds’, KFC’s, Burger King’s and Nando’s fries. With the aforementioned fries, salt or peri peri seasoning are fine. The peri peri seasoning on Nando’s fries are moreish; in spite of that, are you really paying top whack for jumped-up chip spice?

What is chip spice may you ask? Well, it is a seasoned coating, like the coating of a Southern Fried Chicken drumstick, though with salt and paprika. It is a product designed for chips, potato wedges, and pizza. Even mashed potato and salad. Its birthplace, rather than the United States is East Yorkshire: Kingston-upon-Hull to be precise. Yes, the 2017 City of Culture. (It is available via the American Chip Spice website). Morrisons have now created its own Chip Spice. Of Bradfordian leanings, it is known as Chip Seasoning.

If you go to KFC, there is one condiment that puts the men against the boys: their chicken gravy. Which goes a storm with KFC fries (well it would, wouldn’t it?). From a previous visit I made in 2006, Allen’s Fried Chicken gravy was similarly good.

In brief, here’s another element of the Vallantanian Chip Hierarchy Chart.

Which Condiment?

In the same way food and drink reviewers wax lyrical over beer and food matching, here’s our semi-definitive chart on Which Condiment Works Best on Chips.

  • Hellman’s Mayonnaise: J.D. Wetherspoon Oven Chips (with salad, egg or pasta based dishes);
  • HP Sauce: J.D. Wetherspoon traditional breakfasts and All Day Brunch. Also good on bog-standard oven chips in the home;
  • Daddies’ Sauce: best for bog-standard straight cut oven chips;
  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup: any crinkle cut oven chips;
  • Henderson’s Relish: home fried chips;
  • Chip Spice: chippy chips, thick cut oven chips or fries;
  • Salt and vinegar: as above, plus chippy chips – whether cooked in beef dripping or vegetable oil;
  • Gravy: chip shop chips or thick cut oven chips with a pie;
  • Curry sauce: chippy chips – even better with a dash of boiled rice, noodles, or a jumbo sausage. If you need to go posh, try it with fish. Also great with Meat and Potato pies. Refrain from mixing with a Balti Pie;
  • Mushy peas: alongside salt and vinegar and/or gravy, a perfect partner. The best mushy peas – besides the ones you get in the chippy – come in a bag and are seen in the freezer section of your local supermarket;
  • Cheese: chippy chips of course. The cheese must be grated; best served with medium or mature Cheddar.

One other thing: gravy and curry sauce depends on the recipe used in your local chippy. Some chippies serve what is known as an Irish Curry. McDonnells in Drogheda are the leading manufacturers of Irish Curry sauce. Compared with Chinese style curry sauce it is slightly sweeter.

Chinese style curry sauce is less sweeter with subtle differences to the recipe from chippy to chippy. Some Chinese curry sauces include sultanas and onions. The UK’s leading manufacturers of curry sauce are Middleton Foods and Dinaclass.

Like curry, chip shop gravy needs to be thick. Onions are desirable though not essential.

Next up on The Correct Use of Sauce…

We shall be looking at which sauces or seasonings work best on processed meats. You would be offal-ly mad to miss Feast of the M60’s expert analysis on the best sauces for bacon butties. Should I put mayo on my chicken burger? Or tomato ketchup on corned beef? Stand by for further announcements.

S.V., 17 May 2018.

* You Got The Love, The Source featuring Candi Staton (1991).

Slight tweaks made on the 09 September 2020.

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