For the last couple of decades the deep fried Mars Bar has come to symbolise every imagined horror inherent in the Scottish diet.
If you believe the national media, then everyone from Eyemouth to Orkney is liquidising the things and injecting them intravenously in some sort of Mad Max-inspired post-industrial wasteland.
Most Scots I know have never eaten one. So, if we’re going to get to the bottom of this epic misrepresentation, then we need some intrepid investigative journalism.
As WOW247’s resident sugar-addict, I set out to see if people would indeed fry anything I gave them, rated these Frankenstein creations against each other and finally asked; is the deep fried Mars Bar really for Scots at all?
Round 1: The Classic Mars Bar
Concorde Fish Bar in Tollcross were conveniently open for lunch and sold the things for the best part of £1.80 a pop.
Supposedly, although it’s disputed, the ‘delicacy’ originated in the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven.
If you look at the array of random products Scottish chip shops do sell, it’s not difficult to see how two and two was first put together.
Whilst I waited for my mars bar to be dipped in batter, coated in bread crumbs, battered again and then fried, the lads behind the counter regaled me with the time a fella from the Kings Arms next door ordered 56 pickled eggs to eat for a bet, which he then won.
I was assured they’re only really sold to tourists, but they’ve put too much thought into it for that.
The batter was soft, with the chocolate roughly holding its shape. The concoction was obviously sickly overall, but it was still genuinely enjoyable.
Quite seriously, the addition of Raspberry sauce was magical. It didn’t have the forewarned horror factor I was expecting.
Round 2: Cream Egg
I came prepared for this one, and fortunately, The Castle Rock Fish Bar in the Grassmarket were up for chucking a creme egg in their fryer.
Once you start talking about the concept of frying anything with staff, no matter how taken aback they might be, most are more than happy to oblige, or to give out tips. Oreo biscuits, apparently.
We’ll see about that.
With Castle Rock being in a tourist area, Pawel and his staff echoed the fact that it was mainly tourists ordering the Mars Bars.
The creme egg though, that was a new departure.
As you can see it the batter actually forms an effective outer shell, allowing the egg to be, with a little teasing, cracked open.
The overall effect was like eating extremely thick sticky and frighteningly sweet PVA glue. Chewy and far too sweet to still reasonably enjoyable, but workable nonetheless.
Round 3: Maltesers
Uncles on George IV Bridge were up for frying literally anything.
After a quick chat, Emre and Bartak settled on a workable strategy for making a light, floating chocolate batter itself effectively.
With a little forced dunking, Emre polished the little battered balls with some whipped cream and coco powder, giving it actually presentation.
Sticking together in little clumps, they were described by local postman and jobbing actor Bobby Robertson as tasting “like a doughnut.” Which is about right.
The middle seems to compact and solidify, making them have a crunchy texture and an almost ‘bready’ taste.
Round 4: Wispa Gold
Jamal in Giuliano’s on Union Place was a little worried about me.
My walking had slowed and my heart was now beating very fast, so I’d started to share his concern.
He sold the Mars Bars, like the rest, but was adamant that they “had nothing to do with Scotland really,” though the deep fried pizza had “always been in Scotland, for the last 30 years.”
As he would only fry ‘hard things’, and I was curious about the effects of deep frying on caramel, I opted for a Wispa Gold.
What actually happens to the caramel is that it seems to vanish, as this is an aerated bar too, it all sort of melts into the batter.
The taste wasn’t too far from the original, but all the velvety texture was lost and it almost felt like an empty batter shell.
Round 5: Oreo Biscuits
It had to be tried. It really did.
The guys at The Mermaid on Leith Walk were more than happy to help.
Antonio Carolla and Emma Cameron presenting a neat half dozen.
This actually works a lot better than you’d imagine.
They lose all their crunch, becoming soft, but not in ‘left in the tin’ kind of a way.
Essentially they still taste the same, with a runny middle. There was a bit of a fishy taste, but is a common issue in the world of battered chocolate.
Many places I went too wouldn’t even fry any in case the fish started getting a chocolatey flavour in return.
Bonus Round: Turkish Delight
Julia who worked behind the counter was curious about the effect of deep-frying on a typical bar of Turkish Delight.
Despite groans from my arteries, I relented and found that it actually works bizarrely well.
The jelly refused to melt, leaving the chocolate to act as a glue between it and the batter.
The rose flavour even takes the sickly sweetness away, to an extent. This is rivaling the classic.
Contest-wise, it’s a solid draw between the classic Mars and the Turkish upstart.
The deep fried Mars Bar might have been born in Scotland, but it hardly feels Scottish. It’s a tourist trap as big as Nessie or the new series of Outlander.
Antonio at The Mermaid once sold 24 to some students. It’s not for the locals. Just for bored folk with access to an industrial fryer.
Why do Scottish people fry everything when you ask? Simply because they’re lovely. That’s all.
Anyway, I had to stop before I started developing some sort of Edinburgh chocolate-based munchy box.
Or before I developed Type 2 diabetes.
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All photos by Tom Crosby