Back to FISH Vol 30 1
PUBLISHED 4 Mar 2022

Communities have united behind their favourite fish and chip shops, with close competition in the voting for the state winners of the 2021 Great Australian Fish & Chip Awards

By Anne Crawford

Fish and chip shops are ubiquitous in Australia and a familiar sight in country towns and suburbs nationwide. It is little surprise then that, when a call went out last year for Australians to vote for their favourite fish and chippery, there were about 300,000 votes.

The 2021 Great Australian Fish & Chip Awards state winners were announced in December by Seafood Industry Australia (SIA). The awards, an initiative of the FRDC, are now run by SIA, the national peak body representing the seafood sector, with funding provided by the FRDC and others, including MasterFoods.

“Buying Australian seafood supports Australian fishing families and the regional communities where they operate,” says SIA CEO Veronica Papacosta.

“Australian seafood is one of the most sustainable protein sources in the world and our fisheries management is world-class. However, close to 70 per cent of seafood eaten in Australia is imported,” she says.

Fish and chips are an important route to market for Australian seafood and the awards celebrate those businesses that excel in delivering delicious fish and chips.

Photo: 123rf
Photo: 123rf


Bringing communities together

The small town of Ceduna, South Australia got right behind its local seafood shop, the Ceduna Oyster Barn, in the awards. Ceduna, known as the oyster capital of South Australia, sits on the west coast of Eyre Peninsula.

Ceduna local Karen Kavanagh says an online post about the competition “set in motion a month of fun and community unity and brought out the passion for seafood that is Ceduna”.

“Our community consists of a high proportion of Aboriginal people as well as a smaller proportion of Greek people,” Kavanagh says. “This competition brought all nationalities together and our community page was awash daily with people encouraging others, tagging people to vote, acknowledging they had voted and so on,” she says.

“The competition created a situation where people were talking about it in the street and asking each other had they voted, what the numbers were, what we needed to move from fourth to third – it was a real topic around town. It was positively awesome. It’s a great community-orientated competition,” she says. 

The Ceduna Oyster Barn, a converted portable hut with dining space on the roof, came third in the SA awards behind two larger businesses.

“We’ve got our sights set firmly on second – if not first – place for SA in 2022!” says Kavanagh.

Image of an online post about the competition brought the local community together. Photo: Ceduna Oyster Barn. Photo: SIA
An online post about the competition brought the local community together. Photo: Ceduna Oyster Barn.

A long tradition

The tradition of buying and sharing paper-wrapped bundles of battered fish and fried chips is deep-rooted in Australian culture. For many, it is a part of growing up, picnics on the beach and, for some families, a Friday night institution.

According to the FRDC’s Short History of Fish and Chips, the English first combined the two key ingredients – potatoes and fish – as fast fare for the common people in a London shop opened in 1860 by Jewish migrant Joseph Malin. Greek migrant Athanasias Comino is often credited with introducing the takeaway meal here, opening the first Australian fish and chip shop in 1879 on Sydney’s Oxford Street (though family records say Comino copied the idea from a Welshman’s shop nearby). Successive waves of migrants invested in similar businesses and played a crucial role in popularising the meal across the country. Recently, there were an estimated 4000 fish and chip shops in Australia.

Papacosta, a third-generation seafood retailer and fish and chip shop co-owner, explains the surprising origin and use of batter in a podcast by Myf Warhurst devoted to the fish and chip shop in the series Our Place. “Batter is meant to be more of a vehicle for cooking fish,” Papacosta says on the podcast. “So fish is best cooked quickly. We know the English would put a batter around the fish so that it was protected and wouldn’t dry out because they were obviously deep frying. The batter was something that you’re actually meant to peel off and eat the fish inside and some people I know still do that. We’ve become very used to eating the batter,” she says.

Batter in Australia evolved to become much thinner, Papacosta says, with Japanese techniques introduced to the process here.

Today, fish and chips are an essential part of the menu for many pubs, restaurants and upmarket eateries as well as takeaway shops, and they are the culinary subject of many celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs. f

Photo: SIA
Photo: SIA


Congratulations to the state winners of the MasterFoods People’s Choice Award – Great Australian Fish & Chip Awards 2021 for showcasing outstanding seafood.

State winners are:
Australian Capital Territory
The Fish Shack, Civic

New South Wales
Something Seafood, Callala Bay

Northern Territory
Frying Nemo Fish and Chippery, Stuart Park

Costa’s Seafood Cafe, Capalaba

South Australia
Fish Out of Water, Hyde Park

Fraggle’s Fish and Chips, Invermay

Trident Fish Bar, Queenscliff

Western Australia
Pinjarra Fish & Chips, Pinjarra