Just got back from dinner, where I had some decent fish and chips with white vinegar, and a thought came to me: At restaurants, I've found the white vinegar there helps to accentuate the flavour of the dish, mainly French fries. But when trying to do the same thing at home, the taste is more like I had just thrown on water as opposed to vinegar.

Barring that I'm imagining things (and it's entirely possible), I wonder if anyone else can shed some light on this at all?

  • 3
    Are you sure that you got white vinegar for your fish and chips? Usually, fish and chips are served with malt vinegar, which is a very different substance.
    – Martha F.
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 1:20
  • @martha F definitely. As someone that is not a fan of malt (all fish and chip aficinados will be recoiling in horror right now) I insist on white vinegar with my order. Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 1:27

3 Answers 3


According to a quick search on Google, there are two other types of vinegar served in fish and chips shops along with malt vinegar.

The first (and my best guess) is onion vinegar -- which is white vinegar that has been used to pickle onions. This is clear, but at minimum contains onions and salt, and perhaps sugar and other pickling spices. (I should note that the recipe I linked to uses malt vinegar to pickle the onions, but you could certainly achieve the same result with white vinegar.)

The second vinegar is actually called non brewed condiment, and isn't actually vinegar. It's ascetic acid, water, and a bit of caramel coloring. The coloring would make it brown, but it wouldn't have the malt flavor.

  • 1
    Acetic acid makes up 4-20% of vinegars anyways.
    – nico
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 15:44
  • 2
    yeah, but the other 80-96% can add a significant amount of flavor.
    – baka
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 18:22
  • @baka: sure does, I was just pointing out that acetic acid is also normally in vinegar (it is not clear to me whether the answer is implying that or not)
    – nico
    Commented Sep 5, 2011 at 22:19
  • @nico -- I was just saying that the condiment is not brewed from normal vinegar. Yes, acetic acid is in vinegar, but it's produced differently. This appears to just be acetic acid in water.
    – Martha F.
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 0:13
  • @Martha: ok, sorry I misunderstood your sentence. :)
    – nico
    Commented Sep 6, 2011 at 7:09

Fish and chips shops often use a non-brewed condiment rather than real vinegar. The condiment is made of acetic acid, the same as regular vinegar, but is produced by an alternative process. This condiment is often stronger than other vinegars.


I don't know how old this food science is but I reckon the white vinegar (which is distilled vinegar, btw.) was used for pickling onions. Many chips shop use up their old stock as best as they can so once the onions have finished instead of throwing the vinegar away they used it to go on your chips. I must admit it is very tasty on fish too.

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