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Cod mania

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2015-11-03 08:40
Cod mania

Brunch at Alfie's in Beijing features flaky cod served with a delicate tartar sauce.[Photo by Mike Peters/China Daily]

Ever since China's President Xi lunched at a pub with the UK's PM Cameron, fish and chips have gone viral on the Internet. Mike Peters checks out the buzz in Beijing.

Imagine being the leader of a very important country-for example, China. Everywhere you go, other leaders want to treat you to the best their country has to offer: some fancy foie gras, perhaps a bottle of 1998 chateauneuf-du-pape, whatever. China's President Xi Jinping has famously urged his own countrymen to cut back on such frills, so it wasn't a huge shock when the Chinese leader asked his British counterpart to take him to a pub for some fish and chips.

It continues to be, however, a lingering sensation. Press photographers couldn't get enough of a smiling Xi chowing down on fried cod with UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and quaffing tankards of India pale ale like old drinking pals. Chinese living in the UK are now swarming The Plough at Cadsden, a few minutes away from Cameron's countryside residence of Chequers, seeking what now seems like the Xi Dada special: a basket of mini fish and chips with homemade tartar sauce and a pint of Greene King IPA.

Eateries in China that sell fish and chips, especially in the capital, are seeing a bump in business, too, though milder.

"We've had more Chinese guests asking for fish and chips," says a server surnamed Wang at the Jing-A Taproom, a popular brew house in Beijing's expat haven of Sanlitun. "But many Chinese have studied in the UK, and if they liked eating fish and chips there, they were our customers already."

Britain's Guardian newspaper averred as recently as 2012 that the dish, "invented" 150 years ago, remains the UK's favorite takeaway, with a claim that there were eight "chippies" for every McDonalds in the country. Look for a place that fries fish to order, the paper advises, and serves it "in a polystyrene tray or one of those posh corrugated-cardboard boxes. To be eaten with a tiny, fiddly wooden fork and greasy fingers. It's the only way."

Jing-A launched its version earlier this year: delicate white fish fillets, fried crisp in a batter soused with the bar's own Koji Red Ale, which adds notes of malt and citrus. It's won local reviewers' hearts with its chips and chili-infused vinegar and a 70-yuan ($11) price tag.

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