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The Saucy Fish Fry

January 13, 2015

Hopefully you aren’t one of those people who looks at January as a time to get fit. It’s winter in upstate New York. Surviving it means putting on a protective layer of body fat. And I’ve been working my hardest to stay warm.

Mrs. Fussy who has been running, even in the dead of winter, seems to be cold all the time. On the other hand, I’ve been eating donuts like it’s my job, and I feel great.

I only mention this because in my bacchanalia of fried delights, just yesterday I made time for my first fish fry in far too long. For those who don’t already know, Albany fish fry isn’t like other fish fry. In fact, our version of this dish is one of the area’s few regional specialties.

Today’s post isn’t so much a poll, but I am curious about your thoughts on a related topic.

Across the country, fried fish is served with a choice of either tartar or cocktail sauce. I had heard of chili sauce before coming to the region, but I had never known of anyone to use it, nor had I ever tasted the stuff. Amazingly, sweet chili sauce is the default topping at Ted’s Fish Fry, which seems to be a combination of ketchup and relish.

Yes, I’ve tried it. No, it hasn’t won me over.

But I am curious about what all of you prefer on your foot long fish fry sandwiches when you buy them in the Capital Region. Or does it depend on the place? Because I know it to be true that the sauces are slightly different from establishment to establishment.

The unique take on these classic sauces is just one reason I really love the seasonal Gene’s Fish Fry across the river.

So, what is it?

a) Cocktail
b) Tartar
c) Chili
d) None of the above

I suppose there are people who keep their fish fry gloriously free of condiments, preferring instead to cherish every last bite of crispy fried crust. I’ve also seen adults slather their sandwich with ketchup, which continues to astound me. Of course there are those who like a combination of sauces on the same sandwich: cocktail on one half and tartar on the other. Or those who layer sauces on top of one another.

Me? I like the peppery bite of horseradish to help cut through all that oil, so I’m usually a cocktail sauce guy myself. But sometimes, if I’m feeling the need for just a bit of extra creamy comfort, I’ve been known to go tartar. Especially at Gene’s, because their tartar is tangy and fantastic.

How about you?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. llcwine permalink
    January 13, 2015 9:53 am

    I like hot sauce or siracha….I find cocktail or chili to be a tad too thick…plus they are usually cold which then chills down the fish…

    • llcwine permalink
      January 14, 2015 9:56 am

      I forgot about malt vinegar…love it on a a fish fry especially if they use a batter rather than breading…

  2. MikeH permalink
    January 13, 2015 10:01 am

    Cain’s tartar sauce on the fish fry with cocktail sauce on the side for an occasional dip.

  3. January 13, 2015 10:48 am

    Just squeezes of fresh lemon!!!

  4. January 13, 2015 10:51 am

    “Chili Sauce” is as old as the hills. I have lots of recipes from old books about canning and preserves. I have a feeling that most of the local fish fry joints don’t use homemade stuff. It is my hypothesis that they simply mix ketchup and whatever they are using as “cocktail” sauce, perhaps with a bit of additional horseradish mixed in. If they took the time to make their own “chili sauce” (as perhaps they did in days gone by) I be you it would be damn good on fish fry.

  5. January 13, 2015 10:52 am

    Oh yes, I like malt vinegar on fish fry if it is offered. Forgot to say that.

  6. January 13, 2015 10:56 am

    an embarrassing amount of tartar.

    • January 13, 2015 11:17 am

      and on a fish & chips dinner – an embarrassing amount of malt vinegar and salt

  7. -R. permalink
    January 13, 2015 10:57 am

    While I also enjoy a splash or two of malt vinegar, at heart I’m a tartar sauce guy. I usually order an extra to dip my fries in (I know, I know, kind of gross, right?).

  8. EPT permalink
    January 13, 2015 11:36 am

    Personally, I would prefer a decent roll rather than the cheap hot dog buns that are served, that might drive my preference for topping.

  9. Kerosena permalink
    January 13, 2015 11:49 am

    Cocktail sauce on the side. I don’t like it on every bite of fish, and I like to dip my fries in it. The more horseradish, the better.

  10. Debra permalink
    January 13, 2015 2:03 pm

    I usually ask for tartar and cocktail sauce – not to mix together, but I go back and forth with each. If I had to choose only one it would probably be tartar.

  11. Bob W. permalink
    January 13, 2015 4:51 pm

    If I can get both cocktail sauce and tartar on the side, I will utilize both for dipping. If forced to choose, cocktail sauce gets the nod.

  12. enough already! permalink
    January 13, 2015 7:38 pm

    Lots of malt vinegar, with tartar sauce (freshly made please) on the side.

  13. January 13, 2015 10:55 pm

    I like squeezes of lemon and tartar sauce to dip as I please. I live in Western NY where Friday fish fry is everywhere. I have never seen anything but tartar sauce. Cocktail sauce is available if requested.

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