Odds are, as a Brummie, you’ve probably already had your fair share of orange chips. They’re the best things our friends from over in the Black Country have ever given us. Soft and crunchy, tangy and sweet, and put the rest of the country’s chip-shop chips to shame. You’ll find them in a few chippies around Birmingham these days, but they’re still largely a regional speciality of places like Dudley and Wolverhampton. What we can’t wrap our heads around is how these amazing battered chips haven’t taken over the rest of the country. Somehow, orange chips are still the West Midlands’ best-kept secret.
What are orange chips?
In the simplest description, this Black Country delicacy is just chunky chips deep-fried in a thick orange-coloured batter. Sounds simple enough, but what goes into this batter is where the mystery lies. Various ingredients are thought to go into the fluorescent batter – from paprika to turmeric to food dye – to give it its unique shade.
No one can agree on the exact recipe, or if there even is one single version. In all likelihood, the secret ingredient of orange chips differs from chippy to chippy. All that’s important is that when you pull them from the fryer, you’re serving up chips that are fluffy on the inside, crispy on the out, and bursting with flavour. And of course, have that iconic orange tint.
Where do orange chips come from?
Like many of Britain’s great local delicacies, orange chips are said to date back to World War II and rationing. A time when out-of-the-box thinking was needed to make boring potatoes somewhat more palatable during those bleak times. Evidence for this isn’t exactly rock-solid – more hearsay. While many people have also claimed to be the inventors of orange battered chips, yet none have proved it.
The exact origins of the Black Country’s orange chips remain a mystery. Foods of England, however, say orange chips can only be traced back as far as 1999. But most West Midlanders have known about them for far longer this. Just because no one else in the country knew about them, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.
Where are the best chippies to try them in the Black Country?
In all likelihood, wherever you are in the country, you’ll need to jump in the car. As we’ve said, this is largely a Black Country exclusive. And even then, the best is often in the far-flung corners of the area. Major’s in Bilston, near Wolverhampton, is a name you’ll hear a lot when discussing battered chips. As is Beks in Darlaston and Hooked on Fish in Cradley Heath.
A little closer to home, you might want to look at The Sailors in Bearwood. Looking in Birmingham? Your best bet is Tasty Plaice in Grand Central with their “battered chips”. But true Yam Yams might not agree these qualify as true orange chips.
Of course, you could always try making your own. Brum’s very own Poppy O’Toole aka Poppy Cooks (the Michelin-trained chef and self-titled Potato Queen) has a great recipe. She decides on using turmeric to colour her chips, which some may take umbrage with. But trust us, she knows her stuff and these taste legit.