'Would you like fries with that'?
Usually, you hear those magical words when you're ordering a burger – and ready to deploy a generous squiggle of tomato sauce on top of your hot chips.
But around the world, fries aren't just a sidekick – they're a dish's headline ingredient. From Tanzania (where eggs are cracked to make a hot-chips omelette called chipsi mayai) to South Korea (where hot dogs are battered with a 'crust' of French fries as a street food), these creations show golden potato strips have become the star feature of any menu.
Viennese pizza, Italy
Hot chips on a pizza? It sounds like something invented to get a blockbuster amount of likes on Instagram. But it's actually a legit Italian dish that's older than you think, according to Oliver Kirkham, general manager for 400 Gradi (the pizzeria empire with outposts in Australia, Auckland, Bahrain and Kuwait).
"It may seem like a modern food mash-up, but it has been popular in Naples for the past 30 years," he says.
He still recalls the guest who once said: "Chips on a pizza! Are you guys drunk?!" (They weren't and the diner tried it and loved it, and incidentally consumed an Italian food-history lesson with each slice.)
This creation is, understandably, a big hit with kids. The son of Johnny Di Francesco, 400 Gradi's founder, loved eating chip-topped pizza when they were in Italy – and after making him oven-hot versions of it while on holiday, it made sense to add it to the 400 Gradi menu. It's even served at 400 Gradi's floating restaurant on P&O's Pacific Explorer cruise ship.
In Australia, the Viennese pizza was a fixture at 400 Gradi menus last year – but only returned to its menus for one day only this year: National Fry Day on 13 July.
The Viennese pizza gets its name from the chopped sausage that tops the pizza. 400 Gradi's version features Italian sausage (wurzel) and fior di latte. When it comes out of the wood-fired oven, the golden chips are added once everything is crisp and baked.
The result looks like a bag of fries perfectly emptied on top of melted cheese and sliced meat. No tomato sauce needed.
Lomo saltado, Peru
Sydney's Bad Hombres is dedicated to vegan Mexican food, so it's surprising to see stir-fried chips on the menu. But the dish actually has multicultural origins: head 4,700 kilometres south of Mexico, land in Peru and you'll learn that lomo saltado is a popular dish there. It's influenced by the country's Chinese population, is usually flavoured with wok-fried beef strips, tomato and onions, and is served with rice.
"For me, it was a special – and gratifying – challenge to make a plant-based version of this dish with a little touch of Mexican flavours," says Bad Hombres' chef Juan Carlos Miranda.
"It was a special – and gratifying – challenge to make a plant-based version of this dish with a little touch of Mexican flavours."
Instead of beef, he uses confit shimeji mushrooms, which are deeply savoury and have an extra smoky flavour when wok-fried with Spanish onions and jalapeño peppers. Gluten-free soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and oregano are swished through the hot pan, with tomatoes and coriander and thrown in right at the end for a few seconds so they stay fresh and vibrant.
It gets tipped onto a bed of French fries and is truly delicious. Who needs a triple-fried potato when you can have a stir-fry of actual fries?
The chip butty, England
"The humble chip butty was once a staple of the British diet and has always been a favoured and simple snack for the working class," says Nicholas Hill, the head chef at The Old Fitzroy in Sydney. "It's all about super-fluffy, soft white bread, soft butter and greasy thick-cut hot chips with plenty of salt."
"It's all about super-fluffy, soft white bread, soft butter and greasy thick-cut hot chips with plenty of salt."
His take on the chip sandwich (wrapped in butcher's paper, as is tradition) is served during lunch hours and, depending on the day you walk in, you can order the chip butty with extras like mushy peas, crab mayonnaise, bone marrow butter, a fried egg with slices of lardo, beef gravy split with dripping or, yes, chip-shop curry sauce.
The chip butty is one of many variations on a fried-potato sandwich. There's also Sydney's El Jannah, famous for its charcoal chicken and Lebanese dishes, which offers a vegetarian wrap that’s essentially an express package of hot chips, snugly folded inside flatbread with garlic sauce, coleslaw, green pickles and tomato sauce.
Fast-food joints, from Zeus Street Greek to Guzman y Gomez, sell a variation on this while Turkey has a version called a patso – it resembles a hot dog roll that's been shovelled high with thick-cut fries.
And there's more
On the streets of Tanzania, you'll find vendors deep-frying potato chips in woks full of bubbling oil. They're making chipsi mayai (which literally means "chips and eggs"). Add some beaten egg and you've got a French fry omelette. And yes, it can be eaten for breakfast. Sometimes this egg dish gets extra heat from chilli peppers and a tomato chilli sauce, or a topping of kachumbari, an East African salad made with and onion.
At South Korean fairs, there are common sightings of tokkebi. It's essentially a mega hot dog: encrusted with batter and a bonus layer of French fries, which is then deep fried and handed out on a stick. If this isn't already a structural engineering feat of deep-fried carbs, sometimes it's also served with an extra coating of crushed ramen.
Loading fries with condiments, cheese and other chip-smothering toppings is an international hobby. In Australia, we have the halal snack pack: the takeaway box of chips, cheese, kebab meat and what former politician and unofficial HSP ambassador Sam Dastyari calls "the holy trinity of sauces – garlic, BBQ and chilli" in his memoir, One Halal of a Story.
The Dutch have their version of this. It's grilled with Gouda cheese, called the Kapsalon (it's named after Nathaniel Gomes, a Rotterdam hairdresser who came up with the dish in 2003 and essentially means "hairdresser").
The French-Canadians are famous for their poutine, which features a hangover-friendly combination of cheese curds, gravy and chips.
While that item is no longer on the menu, you can still get plant-based versions of the halal snack pack and loaded Jamaican fries at the vegan fast-food joint – proving there really is no shortage of ways to serve chips.
"Would you like fries with that?" is truly a phrase that works in multiple languages.
This recipe gives the classic burger-and-chips combo a healthy spin (but no-one will guess it!)—grated zucchini and carrot are added into the beef patty, and the chips are baked rather than deep-fried.