Peter Cornish reminisces about the traditional taste of England, and a new bricks and mortar location for the popular delivery product that expats have come to love. Photos by Vinh Dao.
There’s something quintessentially British about fish & chips. The hot dish of battered fish and chopped up potatoes, sprinkled with malt vinegar, salt and wrapped up in newspaper.
It’s usually served with a pickled onion, some mushy peas or curry sauce.
What was once the East London working men’s tea, a fish supper is now enjoyed worldwide as England’s national dish.
JJ’s Fish & Chips have an established reputation for bringing this delicious bit of Britain to Saigon.
They first appeared as a knock-up street cart on Bui Vien in 2013, accompanied by a couple of chairs, a table, and a longed-for taste of home.
Word spread of the traditional British street food sold in the centre of backpacker-ville, and they attracted the interest of expats, locals and tourists wanting a taste of England.
Next, they moved to a new site on De Tham, added some more chairs and tables and became a regular stopover for expats on their way home.
After falling afoul of the Pham Ngu Lao food stall clean up, they relocated once again to focus on the burgeoning home-delivery market and expand their recipes.
November saw them move again, to their first bricks and mortar location, right in the heart of the Pasteur street bar hub, upstairs at 130 Ton That Dam.
They’re situated above Legends Bar and just a couple of minutes’ walk from Bar 5, Phattys and Emergency Room.
The new restaurant is deliberately cozy, with a feel of home and a nod to English traditions.
There are Union Jack tables, a model of Tower Bridge and a blue plaque commemorating the time Ho Chi Minh spent in London before his studies in Paris. Capital Radio plays in the background. I close my eyes and I’m back home down the local chippie.
Their menu is simple, but ticks the boxes. The battered or bread-crumbed fish choice is Sea Bass (VND135,000) or Basa (VND110,000) each served with hand-cut, double fried British chips, thick and sturdy, not limp and skinny.
Go full Cockney “cor blimey guv’nor” with a side order of mushy peas (VND30,000), and if you are going the full hog, why not have a pickled egg, or at least a pickled onion (VND15,000)? Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you don’t get more chippie than that.
Opening at 11am for brunch, JJ’s is an ideal place to stop for a quiet cuppa, and they offer a choice of Yorkshire (VND35,000 to 45,000), English Tea Time or English Breakfast tea (VND35,000 to 45,000).
Later in the day they offer draft Tiger (VND45,000) to accompany your fish supper, or perhaps a beer-battered Bratwurst (65,000) or Australian beef pie (VND175,000) for lunch. Everything here is done simply, and that’s how it should be.
Appreciating that not all their customers want to eat meat or fish, JJs are introducing a vegetarian fish and chip option that looks and tastes as good as the real thing.