Deep-fried Mars bar
|Place of origin||Scotland|
|Main ingredients||Mars bar, batter|
A deep-fried Mars bar is an ordinary Mars bar normally fried in a type of batter commonly used for deep-frying fish, sausages, and other battered products. The chocolate bar is typically chilled before battering to prevent it from melting into the frying fat, despite a cold Mars bar being able to fracture when heated.
The dish originated at chip shops in Scotland as a novelty item, but was never mainstream. Since various mass media began reporting on the practice in the mid-1990s, in part as a commentary on urban Scotland's notoriously unhealthy diet, the popularity of the dish has spread. The product has not received support from Mars, Inc., who said "deep-frying one of our products would go against our commitment to promoting healthy, active lifestyles."
The first recorded mention of the food was in the Aberdeen Evening Express, following a tip off phone call to their journalist Alastair Dalton that a chip shop in Stonehaven had been deep frying Mars Bars for local children. The article included a quote from Mars spokesperson who said this was the first time they had heard of this being done with their product. The following day the story was picked up and run in the Daily Record, August 24, 1995, in an article titled "Mars supper, please". Scottish broadsheets The Herald and Scotsman ran the story the following day and the UK broadsheets the day after, each adding their own cultural slant. On the fifth day Keith Chegwin performed taste tests on The Big Breakfast TV programme and the story was covered by the BBC World Service.
In July 2015, Aberdeenshire Council instructed the proprietors of the Carron Fish Bar to remove a banner advertising the shop as the origin of the product. The council wished to "improve the look of Stonehaven". However, the proprietors have refused to remove the banner.
After the food was mentioned in 2004 by Jay Leno on NBC's Tonight Show in the United States, The Lancet commissioned the University of Dundee in June 2004 to validate the association between Scotland and the deep-fried Mars bar.
After undertaking a telephone questionnaire survey of 627 fish and chip shops in Scotland, the results published in December 2004 attempted to discover how available the deep-fried Mars bar was, and if people were actually buying them. The survey found:
- 66 shops which sold them, 22% of which answered the survey; three-quarters had only been selling them for the past 3 years
- An additional 17% had sold them in the past
- Average sales were 23 bars per week, although 10 shops reported selling 50—200 per week
- The mean price was £0.60 (range £0.30 to £1.50)
- 76% were sold to children
- 15 shops reported health concerns with the food
- Many of the shops which did not sell the product refused to do so as it turns the frying oil black.
In 2012, the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven (formerly called The Haven) which began the craze, estimated sales of 100–150 deep-fried Mars bars per week, but that 70% were sold to visitors who have heard of its reputation.
In 2000, Scottish chef Ross Kendall included the bars on the menu of Le Chipper restaurant in Paris.
The deep-fried Mars bar has also given rise to the frying of other confections, for example, Reiver's Fish Bar in Duns annually advertises an Easter special of deep-fried Creme Egg, although this is available all year. Deep-fried Snickers have also been reported, particularly in the United States where the Mars bar is not common; it is popular at state fairs and similar events. In her book and television series Nigella Bites, Nigella Lawson includes a recipe for a deep-fried Bounty bar. Deep-fried Moro bars are also sold in New Zealand, where the brand is popular.
Symbol of an unhealthy diet
Since it was first reported in the media in August 1995, when the Daily Record ran an article entitled "Scotland's craziest takeaway", the deep-fried Mars bar has become a symbol for ill health, obesity and high-fat diets. The original article was quickly followed up by other UK publications, with the food portrayed to speak eloquently about Scotland's and the wider UK's poor diet, and resultant levels of obesity.
In 2012, the Haven sought an application for secured status under the EU's Protected Food Name Scheme. But Mars wrote to the fish bar asking it to make plain that deep-frying of the bars was "not authorised or endorsed" by Mars, and an agreed disclaimer statement was put up in both the shop and in its menu.
The deep-fried Mars bar was one outcome factor amongst many theories behind the "Glasgow effect", whereby the city has a notedly higher mortality rate than many cities of the same size and scale. One theory suggested that its residents have a naturally pessimistic disposition, and that eating unhealthy food was an example of their tendency to put "a lower price on the future". In a 2012 interview, Glasgow restaurateur John Quigley felt that Scotland had been trying to "shake off" its unhealthy image for 20 years, since the media coverage of the deep-fried Mars bar.
- Original source, Scottish Daily Record via:- "Deep-fried Mars myth is dispelled", BBC News online. BBC article dated 17 December 2004, retrieved 2006-11-15.
- "Deep-fried Mars bars disowned by chocolate firm". BBC News. BBC News. 5 September 2012. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- McColm, Euan (February 26, 2000). "No Haven for the Deep Fried Mars Bar; Birthplace of the Battered Choccy Treat Closes Down". Daily Record.
- French batter Mars bars menu publisher:BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/654750.stm BBC News
- Steven Brocklehurst (6 September 2012). "Deep-fried Mars bars: A symbol of a nation's diet?". BBC Scotland. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- David S Morrison & Mark Petticrew (18 December 2004). "Deep and crisp and eaten: Scotland's deep-fried Mars bar". The Lancet. 364 (9452): 2180. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17589-2. PMID 15610802. S2CID 38869524. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "'Birthplace of the deep fried Mars bar' banner is banned". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
- "French batter Mars bars menu". BBC News. 24 February 2000. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- "Deep-fried fair foods move from midways to restaurant menus around Tampa Bay". Tampa Bay Times. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
- "No city for old men". The Economist. 25 August 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2014.