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A fish fry is a meal containing battered or breaded fried fish. It typically also includes french fries, coleslaw, hushpuppies, lemon slices, tartar sauce, hot sauce, malt vinegar and dessert. Some Native American versions are cooked by coating fish with semolina and egg yolk. Fish is often served on Friday nights during Lent as a restaurant special; such a menu offering is sometimes "all you can eat" and occasionally family style (serving dishes brought to and left at the table). Beer is a common beverage of choice to accompany a fish fry. A fish fry may include potato pancakes (with accompanying side dishes of sour cream or applesauce) and sliced caraway rye bread if served in a German restaurant or area.
A Shore Lunch is traditional in the northern United States and Canada. For decades outdoor enthusiasts have been cooking their catch on the shores of their favorite lakes.
Fish fries are very common in the Midwestern and northeastern regions of the United States. This is especially true for predominantly Roman Catholic communities on Fridays during Lent, when regulations call for abstinence from most meat products. The modern fish fry tradition is strongest in Wisconsin, where more than 1,000 eateries hold a weekly fish fry on Fridays, and often on Wednesdays. Fish fries there are offered at many non-chain restaurants, taverns that serve food and some chain restaurants as well as Roman Catholic Churches as fundraisers. The Friday night fish fry is a popular year round tradition in Wisconsin among people of all religious backgrounds. A typical Wisconsin fish fry consists of beer batter fried cod, perch, bluegill, walleye, or in areas along the Mississippi River, catfish. The meal usually comes with tartar sauce, french fries or German-style potato pancakes, coleslaw, and rye bread, though baked beans are not uncommon. The tradition in Wisconsin began because Wisconsin was settled heavily by Catholics of German, Polish and other backgrounds whose religion forbade eating meat on Fridays. The number of lakes in the state meant that eating fish became a popular alternative. Scandinavian settlements in northern and eastern Wisconsin favored the fish boil, a variant on the fish fry, which involves heating potatoes, white fish, and salt in a large cauldron.
Northeastern United States
Battered or breaded haddock and cod fish fry is one of the trademarks of upstate New York cuisine and northwestern Pennsylvania, especially Buffalo, as well as Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, New York, and Utica, New York. The majority of restaurants in these cities serve a fish fry on Friday, even outside Lent, and it's often available throughout the week.
Southeastern United States
In the southern United States, a fish fry is a family or social gathering, held outdoors or in large halls. At a typical fish fry, quantities of fish (such as bream, catfish, flounder and bass) available locally are battered and deep fried in cooking oil. The batter usually consists of corn meal, milk or buttermilk, and seasonings. In addition to the fish, hushpuppies (deep fried, seasoned corn dumplings), and cole slaw are served. These events are often potluck affairs. In Georgia and South Carolina, fish are dipped in milk, then into a mix of flour, cornmeal and seasonings before frying. Cheese grits is often a side dish.