Snapshots from Scotland: Deep-Fried Mars Bars
"After a few minutes, I was handed what looked like a single frozen fish stick on a plate."
I had heard about the art of candy bar-frying for a long time and I didn't explore it for all sorts of reasons. Was fear one of them? Yes. And the bizarreness of it all too. So, I toughened up and headed to the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven, Scotland, the birthplace of the deep-fried Mars Bar.
What was I afraid of? Yes, they must be really fattening, but lots of other foods are too and most of them tend not to scare me. And it was the sort of folk food I normally would revel in. I mean, it wasn't fugu. A deep-fried candy bar could be washed down with a cup of hot tea and walked off with an afternoon stroll.
For the past twenty-odd years, the Carron (formerly the Haven) has served deep-fried Mars Bars and has seen their fame spread around the world. While I was the first to tell the staff of their popularity in Brooklyn, New York—specifically at Chip Shop—they already had seen people from all over come to their shop for a taste. Soon, Doug, the man who claimed to be the inventor, was pulling a Mars Bar out of the fridge, splashing it with water so flour would stick, dipping it in batter, and frying away while Kelsey, a young woman who also worked in the shop was bouncing around with excitement.
After a few minutes, I was handed what looked like a single frozen fish stick on a plate. It was my deep-fried Mars Bar. I paid the price (one pound even*) and headed across the street to a public space where I began to eat the bar.
It should go without saying that the deep-fried Mars Bar didn't care what anybody thought of it. It had a flavor and life of its own—layers of warm chocolate, a crispy crust, and rivulets of brown goo seeping through. I took one bite and fell in love.
Like haggis, this Scottish dish is misrepresented. If it were presented to you in a fine restaurant in New York or London, you'd be delighted to try it. I can hear the raves—the way the different layers of chocolate mix, the contrast between the crispy outside and the molten interior (I think I stole that line from a real restaurant review somewhere) and how the combining of components was a tour de force of molecular gastronomy.
After I finished, I strolled around Stonehaven for a while. It was mostly modern buildings on a pleasant enough harbor. Not really a worthwhile destination for an American tourist. Except of course, if they wanted one of those deep-fried Mars Bars.
*Note: this is less than one half the price that's charged for the same item in New York City. I have calculated that if you ate 700 fried Mars Bars, it would be cheaper to fly to Scotland and grab a train to Stonehaven than to have them in, say, Brooklyn.