A chef with a degree in maths has spent 10 years creating the formula for the perfect fish finger sandwich.
Rick Panesar has made more than 15,000 sandwiches and regularly consumes up to 25 fish fingers sandwiches a week.
The 43-year-old says his maths background and training from leading chefs gave him the necessary insight and he has spent hours ‘fine tuning’ his fish finger sandwiches.
He set to work identifying the ideal bread-to-fish ratio, the order ingredients should be arranged, and even the optimum resting time required to ensure the bread becomes moist enough without breaking apart.
Rick said: “Using my mathematical background and experience as a chef, I felt qualified to come up with a formula that everyone can follow.”
The painstaking research led him to the conclusion the ideal fish finger sandwich must be made with two pieces of buttered, soft white bread which are each half the thickness of the fish fingers.
And once made, the sandwich must be left for 60 to 90 seconds before eating to ‘steam the bread’.
Rick, who runs his own fish finger sandwich business, 2 Fingers, says the most common mistake is the order in which people make their sandwich.
Many, after buttering the bread, place the salad garnish and sauce on the bottom slice. But according to Ricky this can lead to ‘disaster’.
He said: “When you place freshly cooked fish fingers on top of the garnish, it will instantly wilt with the heat.
“The sauce will lose its consistency, the sandwich will be soggy, and inevitably break apart upon eating it.
“The number one thing to remember is to place the sauce and salad garnish on top – this will create the correct taste profile as you bite into the sandwich.”
Drawing on his Punjabi heritage Rick has experimented with flavourings from the region, explaining: “I would often try a bit of masala, mint chutney or tamarind with them to fulfil my fish finger fuelled obsession.”
However he concluded that the best sauce is a thick, creamy tartare.
Rick’s love affair with the fish finger sandwich began at the age of five, when his mum first served him two for his tea.
After studying for a Maths degree he went on to run restaurants and then trained as chef in the South of France before returning to London, where he trained under Tim Payne and Andy Campbell of Saturday Morning Kitchen fame.
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After breaking his leg in three places he was forced to take an office job and while sat at his desk came up with the idea for 2 Fingers, a street food pop-up concept to provide what he calls ‘the ultimate fish finger experience.’
So began the 10-year quest which saw him running online polls to find out what people most wanted from a fish finger sandwich and more recently an Instagram account reviewing fish finger sandwiches from around the UK.
He said: “My research showed that, whilst many of us may have our own take on this sarnie, we all experience feelings of nostalgia, comfort, familiarity and simplicity when enjoying a fish finger sandwich.”
The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Formula:
Rick explains that ingredients are key: “It needs to be white fish – cod works best, and breaded never battered.
The fish is the star of this sandwich, so use cod loin rather than the fillet. The loin is the meatiest most succulent part of the fish – the equivalent of a tenderloin steak from a cow.
Soft white bread that’s superbly fresh provides the required ‘malleable-ness’ to house the sandwich. This will also stop the sandwich falling apart and the fish fingers slipping out when eating it. And if you’re thinking of skipping on the butter, don’t!
The sauce provides the backdrop for this sandwich, as well as the required ‘moistness’ to ensure it’s not too dry… but take your time picking a sauce, many of those on supermarket shelves are more akin to wallpaper paste.
Rick recommends a thick creamy, chunky tartare sauce which will provide the correct balance of piquancy and sharpness to cut through the fish fingers.
The ‘Fish Bread Ratio’
Rick says “We spent a lot of time on this and luckily there’s a very, very simple conclusion: The total thickness of the bread needs to match the thickness of the fish fingers. That means each slice of bread needs to be half the thickness.
“You might think that since all the ingredients are the same, it doesn’t matter what order you put them in. You’re wrong.
It goes (Bread + Fish Fingers) + (Bread + Sauce).
1) Start with a slice of buttered bread.
2) Add fish fingers on top of the buttered side of the first slice.
3) Apply chunky tartare sauce to the remaining slice of bread, along with the garnish, and lay it on top of the fish fingers (sauce side down!).
Let the sandwich rest for 60 to 90 seconds. The residual heat from the hot fish fingers will steam the bread a little that will provide ‘malleable-ness’ and allow some of the butter and sauce to soak into the bread.