• Salt and pepper chips (Instagram @foodedgy)Source: Instagram @foodedgy
Hot chips just got a dose of culture and we need Australia to know about this delicious union.
Camellia Ling Aebischer

7 Feb 2020 - 12:07 PM  UPDATED 7 Feb 2020 - 11:01 AM

Chinese migrants across the globe have a knack for tweaking a menu. Their ability to pick up on local preferences have brought us a plethora of takeaway favourites like honey chicken or sweet and sour pork here in Australia, and in the US, the somewhat controversial, honey walnut shrimp, made with deep-fried shrimp and candied walnuts tossed in a mayo-based sauce.

That aside, salt and peppering things like crisp bits of squid or batons of silky eggplant and tofu is something Cantonese migrants didn’t need to adjust for local palates. That’s until the UK got involved, bringing us the beautiful fusion creation that is salt and pepper chips.

Frank Shek, who grew up in Edinburgh and now owns Sydney restaurant China Doll, says salt and pepper chips are a fairly recent invention. “It certainly wasn’t on the menu when I was growing up in a takeaway!” he tells SBS. Shek is no stranger to a chip fusion but hadn’t heard of the dish until more recently.

A Frank Shek chip creation
Scottish-Chinese poutine

If you're partial to the comforts of chips and gravy then this Scottish-Chinese poutine is bringing its A-game. And the base? Chunky-style hand-cut chips, of course!

Salt and pepper chips are as simple as salt and pepper squid or eggplant, instead of subbing out the protein/fried veg for batons of fluffy and crisp chips. The chips, already a perfect vessel for salt or seasoning, cling to a mix of Chinese spices, chilli, and pieces of sautéed onion and capsicum.

“Times change and evolve and this is a great Asian take on loaded fries,” says Shek.

Search the hashtag #saltandpepperchips or #saltandchillichips on Instagram and you’ll be met with a grid of five spice-seasoned chip shots from chip lovers from across the UK. The dish is typically sourced from Chinese takeaway shops rather than classic chip shops due to its inclusion of a wok, however, many posts come from diners creating the dish at home.

While some claim salt and pepper chips are a Scottish staple, an article by The Liverpool Echo claims the dish is all thanks to Chinese immigrants who came to Liverpool and opened chip shops in the mid-90s.

"Due to picky customers, the salt and pepper chips were created.”

Local restaurant owner, Kin Liu who runs Chamber 36 told The Liverpool Echo that there was always demand for items like salt and pepper chicken wings or ribs, “and due to picky customers, the salt and pepper chips were created.”

It’s a cult dish across the UK but our mission today is to spread its glory to Australia.

Shek makes salt and pepper chips as a popular staff snack at China Doll but says he’s also had it at Two Sticks in Barangaroo. Their offering is a little left of field from the UK salt and pepper chips, but you can find it on the menu under ‘Yunnan signature fries’.

Of course, you can also just make the dish at home. All you’ll need is a bag of frozen chips (or go for homemade if that’s how you roll) and a solid salt and pepper mix. We recommend Luke Nguyen’s version here:

Get some pep in your step
Salt and pepper cuttlefish

Salt and pepper cuttlefish is a crowd favourite and popular at parties. It’s quite easy to do – you’ll just need to allow a few minutes to cook it fresh as your guests arrive. This recipe will serve four people as a starter.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @cammienoodleLead image by instagram user @foodedgy.

Salt and pepper fried squid with chilli

A mixture of chillies and spices give this famous fried squid its signature burst of flavour. 

Salt and pepper crab

This a very traditional Hong Kong-Chinese-style of cooking crab in hot oil. It's a visually stunning dish and let your senses take you on a salt and pepper adventure.

Salt and pepper silken tofu

Don't let the name fool you - a blend of spices elevates the humble salt and pepper tofu into a dish of addictive proportions! 

Salt and pepper spareribs

Simple and delicious, this recipe really lets the pork and smoke flavours shine. Feel free to use whole racks of pork spareribs and skip the St. Louis trim. 

Sichuan salt and pepper king prawns with wok-toasted chilli and garlic

An extremely popular dish with universal appeal. It serves four as an entree or two as a main course.

Salt and pepper Moreton Bay bugs

Salt and pepper squid might well be Australia’s national dish. I can hardly think of another that is so widely available everywhere, from pubs to cafés, bistros and restaurants. While the resilient squid can be simply tossed in a little flour, more delicate seafood, such as Queensland’s extraordinary Moreton Bay bugs, may need a light, crispy batter to protect it from the ravages of the oil.