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Will Trinkwon: An outsider's guide to the now infamous deep fried Mars Bar

Spurned by Scots, loved by tourists, Will Trinkwon goes in search of the near mythical deep-fried Mars Bar to find out the truth about this infamous treat.

Published: September 7, 2018

The popular imagination has always gifted countries their national dishes.

France has the baguette and Spain has Tapas.

Even Switzerland has (erroneously) the beloved Swiss roll.

In the mind of the more enlightened foodie, Scotland is probably synonymous with beef or seafood.

But the British public's perception of Scotland's fare is – if the stereotypes are to be believed – decidedly less glamorous.

Italy gets the pizza and Scotland, well, gets this:

Picture: contributed

What you're looking at here, of course, is a deep-fried Mars bar, popularly cited as a favourite treat of the Scots.

But while there is evidence to suggest that the Spanish really do appreciate some chilli-flecked chorizo and that most of the French do indeed enjoy a loaf of fresh bread and some cheese, the status of the deep-fried Mars bar is somewhat more ambiguous.

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I've been into a number of Scotland's chip shops now and have yet to see a person ordering any kind of deep-fried confectionery.

Nor have I met anyone who has actually consumed one.

How much truth then can there really be in the stereotype of the chocolate-and-batter-mad Scotsman?

Do Scotland's chippies genuinely fry up sweets? And, the question my stomach is interested in, could a deep-fried Twirl or a Mars bar actually taste ok?

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The generally acknowledged birthplace of the deep-fried Mars bar is the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven which the Evening Express cites as inventing the snack in the mid-1990s.

• READ MORE: Actual Scots eat deep-fried Mars bars and four other Scottish food myths that need to be busted 

My first taste of the DFMB will be coming in Edinburgh, however, at the (in)famous Café Piccante.

According to local propaganda, the restaurant's deep-fried Mars bars are a favourite among both tourists and natives.

And discovering they sell curried kebabs, alongside the prospect of a set from the restaurant's own DJ, convinces me that Café Piccante is the place where my first bite of the Mars bar should be.

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The restaurant's name is impossible to miss, printed in pulsing purple neon atop its window, and beneath, scribbled in equally searing neon typeface, is the list: Pizza, Kebabs, [and] Deep-Fried Mars Bar.

Each delicacy gets a section of the window to itself and the 'Mars' bit of 'Deep-Fried Mars Bar' is trumpeted in the company colours of red and black.

Here, the deep-fried unicorn evidently is a genuine offering, and one popular enough to warrant celebrity treatment.

I quiz Café Piccante's chefs to find out more before ordering.

"How many people actually eat these things?" I ask, "do you get through a lot of them?".

The chef gives a hearty laugh.

"Only three people have died from eating it", he says with a wink, evidently suspecting me for some kind of health nut, counting my calories and fretting about cholesterol.

I start to wonder what exactly I'm letting my stomach in for, but, perhaps sensing my trepidation, the chef adds a snip of assurance.

"Most people like them", he offers, settling my nerves.

Like most foods, the DFMB comes with a full range of sides. One particularly grizzly looking local tells me that the Mars bar can be enjoyed as both a sweet treat and something more savoury.

Café Piccante's menu offers me a choice between ice cream and chips, but curried kebabs and deep-fried pizzas are also apparently popular sides.

• READ MORE: In numbers: How bad for you is a deep-fried Mars bar?

The concept of mixing chocolate with oil-soaked mains is a new one for me but it seems to be standard fare for a certain brand of person.

A waitress I talk to in Snax, another one of Edinburgh's deep-fried confectionary hotspots, reveals that the real pride of Scotland is not its bagpipes, nor its sporting heritage, but the deep-fried Cadbury's Creme Egg, offered up with a side of chip soldiers.

It's difficult, though, to tell how representative these establishments really are.

There's more than a hint of gentle irony to the waitress's happy plugging of this deep-fried chocolate egg, the sense that she's self-consciously hamming up a comic (but largely fictitious) stereotype and laughing at my own embodiment of a similarly ridiculous stereotype, the Englishman all too quick to believe her.

Most of the Scots I survey on my travels, have, quote, "never had [a deep-fried Mars bar] and never will".

• READ MORE: Deep-fried chocolate in Edinburgh: the ultimate guide

These are a very different set of spokesmen for the Scottish palate, health-conscious salad lovers to whom the idea of consuming a deep-fried chocolate bar is roughly equivalent to consuming a deep-fried boot.

Thankfully for Café Piccante's custom, I'm a little more open-minded.

My deep-fried Mars bar (with ice-cream) is delivered with care and a touch of the chef's earlier ironic panache, whipped under my nose onto the table in much the same manner as a waiter delivers an a la carte entre.

I sink my fork into the bar and manoeuvre a clot of chocolate and buttery batter into my mouth.

I smile.

The deep-fried Mars bar may not be the staple that popular stereotypes suggest, but one thing it definitely is, is delicious.

A developing Homer Simpson doppelganger with only a slightly less conspicuous mid-region, it's safe to say that Will likes his food. He is particularly partial to Italian cooking and if he could only have one meal before he died it would be a traditional sour-dough pizza. Will is currently reading for a degree in English Literature.

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