Hash Browns Are for Life, Not Just for Breakfast

Words by Christina Dean

The humble spud can evolve into many forms, like a starchy Pokemon, making it a mainstay at our meals but there’s been one particular potato preparation that’s been stealing the spotlight of late

Say what you will about Americans and food but they have made some strong contributions to the potato pantheon, including such delights as tater tots, McDonald’s french fries, and of course, the hash brown. The first mention of hash browns (with ‘hash’ likely being derived from ‘hacher’, the French word meaning chop or hack) has been credited to food author Maria Parloa, who referenced them in her 1888 book Kitchen Companion: A Guide for All Who Would Be Good Housekeepers. Soon after, they began appearing on hotel breakfast menus in New York City and they never left. 

But exactly what makes a hash brown a hash brown? Well, it’s made from shredded and fried potatoes that are then normally formed into an individually-sized geometric shape, making them different from latkes, which have added egg and flour (and sometimes even onion) to bind them together, resulting in a doughier fritter, and also from rosti, which is typically thinner and larger, allowing it to be sliced to share between multiple people.

Here the hash brown is most commonly seen in triangular form, whether it be in a Maccy’s wrapper, on the side of a bougie brunch (see the Poacher Hash at Juliet’s Quality Food in Tooting, where diner-style hash browns are generously blanketed with Lincolnshire Poacher cheese), or surrounded by egg, beans, sausage and bacon as part of a fry up, though the English Breakfast Society, fiercely disagree on that last one.

They say, “hash browns however are an ingredient that many believe do not belong in a traditional English breakfast. We here at the Society believe that frozen hash browns and french fries are used as a cheap breakfast plate filler, served by people who probably buy cheap imported bacon and sausages to use in their so called English breakfasts, and who have probably never heard of bubble and squeak.” We say, there’s room for any and all potatoes on the fry up plate. But the golden carby goodness simply cannot be confined to just the morning meal with hash browns travelling down into lunch, dinner and bar menus. 

With street food biz Hash Hut, chef James Sharp (previously of the Michelin-starred Alchemilla and contestant on the most recent series of MasterChef: The Professionals) is pulling the hash brown from side dish to star of the show, serving up fully loaded hash browns from his kitchen in Seven Dials Market’s Cucumber Alley. His hashy B’s come in bite, triangle or stick form, ready to be slathered with jalapeno ketchup, miso BBQ sauce, truffle mayo or buffalo & blue cheese sauce, and garnished with nori flakes, Nik-Naks, parmesan, crispy onions and Frazzles. 

While Sharp is taking hash browns down the street food route, other chefs are poshing them up. Crunchy triangular rostis topped with luxe ingredients like crab and caviar quickly became one of Max Coen’s signature dishes (and IG catnip) at Notting Hill’s Dorian when it opened, and he’s since served venison & smoked eel, urchin & prawn, and vacherin, morel & truffle versions. You’ll find more caviar-topped hash browns, or potato cakes as they’re called (this is Mayfair darling) at New York-Italian joint The Dover, while Jackson Boxer’s creamy, rich, salty topping of choice for his potato-cakes-that-are-really-oblong-hash-browns is cod’s roe. 

And why do a plain old bowl of chips as one of your bar snacks when you could combine the booze soaking quality of potatoes with a little bit of luxury? Eve Bar, underneath Adam Handling’s Frog in Covent Garden, where by-products from the kitchen upstairs are used to create the snacks (with any further waste being turned into ingredients for the cocktails), has hash browns with parmesan and black truffle on the bar food menu. Early morning, late night and pretty much every hour in between, we’re happy to hash it.