Whenever I have friends visiting from overseas, I make sure they eat fish and chips in New Zealand at least once. Turns out a fish and chip shop can be confusing for first-timers as I experienced with two friends being hesitant at what to/not to order and the process. They provided the brainwave for this post.

fish and chips in new zealand with two people

Photo by Anne-Lise Heinrichs via Flickr

As you read on, you’ll learn everything you need to know about kiwi fish and chips. It may seem weird calling this a guide, but alas, I couldn’t think of anything else to call it. It is what it is.

I’ve got some fond memories of eating fish in chips in New Zealand growing up. I spent a good part of my childhood two minutes away from Waikanae Beach Takeaways and made regular too many visits.

To this day, a scoop of chips is something I crave when overseas.

Let’s get into it.

What Are Fish And Chips?

classic fish and chips

Two pieces of fish and chips

Like lots of typical New Zealand foods, fish and chips came to New Zealand via Britain. When they turned up on the shores of New Zealand is up for debate, but they’re entrenched in the Kiwi culture. Fish and chips (a.k.a. fish ‘n’ chips) refer to the two core menu items found at fish and chip shops across the country. A piece of battered fish and a scoop of chips.

A fish and chip shop is a takeaway store selling various deep-fried foods (you can see a typical menu below). Most of the time they’re small independent businesses.

Back in the day fish and chips were wrapped up in newspaper, but that has faded out with greaseproof paper now the norm.

The most popular time to eat fish and chips in New Zealand is on Friday evenings thanks to Catholic families created the tradition the 1960s. They succeeded with people today still flooding chip shops as soon as 5 pm Friday hits!

A kiwi favourite is to eat fish and chips on the beach, but that can be a pain if seagulls and/or wind about. So anywhere outside or inside works as long as it’s served with Watties tomato sauce (and a beer).

You’ll find fish and chip shops across the country. As they’re often run by ethnic Chinese families in New Zealand, you might find Asian cuisine on the menu too.

What’s On A Fish And Chips Shop Menu?

fish and chips menu new zealand

This is a normal fish and chip menu found all over New Zealand

The majority of kiwi fish and chip shops have the same core items but additional items will vary store to store. For example you won’t see a deep fried Mars bar on most menus. If you have any questions what the items on a menu are, just ask the employees.

That said, here are eight items you’ll find at most fish and chip shops in New Zealand.

  • Chips: Deep-fried thick-cut potatoes that look like the pictures here. The industry standard chip in NZ is 13mm thickness.
  • Fish: This will usually mean a piece of battered fish (if it’s crumbed, it will usually say so). The batter is usually a flour, salt, water, and baking soda recipe. The fish is covered in the batter before being put into the deep fryer. You’ll need to ask what kind of fish they’re using at each individual shop.
  • Hot Dog: Nope, they’re nothing like the hotdogs you see in American. In New Zealand chip shops, a hot dog is a battered sausage on a popsicle stick.
  • Spring Roll: A deep-fried roll of vegetables. They’re usually soft to the bite, with a small crunch. Note, sometimes they’ll have meat in them.
  • Paua Fritter: A paua is a native NZ shellfish (sea snail) found in the ocean clinging to rocks (more here). They are minced up and made into a fritter before being fried. TThey have a strong acquired taste but you must try one. The inside of the paua shell is a popular material for souvenirs in New Zealand.
  • Potato Fritter: If you’re not sure you’ve ordered enough food, get two potato fritters and you’ll definitely be full. They’re large slices of potato fried in batter. They quality of a potato fritter varies but they make for a nice filler.
  • Crab Stick: These tend to be sweet and a bit of a gamble in whether they’ll a – be good, and b – what they’re made of. They’re not usually made of crab meat though.
  • Pineapple Rings: A sliced pineapple covered in batter and fried. Delicious!

You’ll also have a variety of burgers and/or toasted sandwiches on most fish and chip shop menus. The burger types and what’s inside varied, so if you’re unsure, ask exactly what they entail at the store.

FAQ About Fish In Chips In New Zealand

fish and chips in new zealand at the beach

Fish and chips on the beach is always awesome (until the seagulls join the party)

How do I order fish and chips? The most common way is to go into the store of your choice, make your order at the counter, pay and then wait 5-20 minutes (longer if it’s busy) to collect your order. You can then eat them in your desired location. Some chip shops will in-store seating, but don’t expect this. Alternatively, you can make your order over the phone in advance before picking them up. Nearly all fish and chip shops accept EFTPOS and cash.

Are Fish And Chips Vegan? It depends. If you’re a vegan who doesn’t like your food cooked in the same oil as meat, you’re out of luck. If you don’t mind that, the next concern is oil used. The fish and chip shops will often use vegetable oil, but beef oil and other non-vegan friendly oils may be used. In terms of what you can eat, the chips, potato fritters, and pineapple fritters are usually safe along with donuts and veggie burgers (made to be vegan).

Always check with each shop before ordering, they should know right away what’s what.

Are they expensive? Relative to other takeaways they’re at worst comparable but usually cheaper. The price you’ll pay for a scoop of chips will vary from town to town but there’s no reason why you can’t subsist on a scoop of chips and a piece of fish that’ll set you back somewhere between NZ$5-8.

Is there a fish and chips song? Why I’m glad you asked. I actually just wanted to include this video, as it’s a song kids we grew up singing at school (the 90’s). It’s so catchy!

Are fish and chip shops clean? For the most part yes. Some of them may look a little dirty and run down, but New Zealand has uniform rules across the country that all restaurants need to abide by. And based on their level of conformity, they are graded and they need to display the food grade certificate in store where customers can see. If the place has an A or B, go for gold. If you’re venturing into the C territory, there are improvements that could be made. You can read more here.

Are fish and chips healthy? No. Deep-fried food is never going to be a winner. But there have been improvements making them less unhealthy as they once were through better cooking practices (again, this will vary as not all shops are part of The Chip Group).

New Zealand Fish And Chips: Who Makes Them The BEst?

fish and chips in the catlins

You never know which fish and chip shop you’ll fall in love with.

It depends. This is one of those subjective topics, as you might like one scoop of chips and I like another.

But, there is a nationally recognized award. This is an award from The Chip Group and as long as they meet the maximum fat content requirement, the chips progress to the next round with the winner judged to have the best combined score from shop cleanliness, customer service and taste.

Grand National Winners Of The Best Fish And Chips In New Zealand:

And the People’s Choice award was won by Steve Fair of Mr Chips Masterton in both 2017 and 2018. Back to back years is impressive!

There you go, I hope you’re craving some fish and chips now! It’s a classic New Zealand cuisine 😀