The Whipped-Cream Strawberry
Topped Deep-Fried Mars Bar

photo: deep fried mars bars

The Chipper's piping-hot whipped-cream strawberry-topped deep-fried Mars bar.

Calories Is a Good Word for It

Paris:- Friday, 10. March 2000:- It isn't editorial practice to follow the Salon de l'Agriculture issue with another food feature, but food is what Paris is all about, nearly its sole 'raison d'être,' so this is what this is about.

This story started in the Café Metropole Club, during the meeting held on Thursday, 9. December of last year. Dana Shaw said the place to get the 'Best Croque-Monsieur' in Paris was in the patisserie next door to La Corona.

The 'Word of the Week' at that meeting was "S'more," which was in reference to certain foodstuffs. Dr. David Leslie was present to become a 'real' charter club member at the meeting, and he said Glasgow was the 'Heart-attack Capital of Europe.'

He also told members that a local delicacy there was deep-fried Mars bars. Then he bolted out of the café to rescue his wife who was runningphoto: sign, the chipper wild with a credit card in the Samaritaine department store a block away at the Pont Neuf.

At the time we all laughed at the idea of deep-fried Mars bars. 'It can't happen here,' we said.

Wrong. The alert Dr. Leslie recently spied an article in the Herald - the Scottish one - that said Parisians were outraged by the availability of deep-fried Mars bars in Paris!

Not having seen any sign of these as 'regional specialties' at the Big Moo Show last week, I put on my investigative journalist's hat today and took the métro over to the Mouffetard area to check this out.

The first thing I see where I emerge at the métro Monge exit is a street marché, and it has fresh fish. Somewhere on the marché I expect there are potatos too, but I don't look for them.

Dr. Leslie has written to say I should be looking for an establishment called The Chipper, on a cross-street, just to the north of the Place de la Contrescarpe.

Up by the final block of Mouffetard, the cross-street is Rue Thouin. I see The Chipper's sign right from the corner. Outside it, in a frame, are press clipping from Libération and Le Parisien - this is an old story!

Inside, the café has a different atmosphere. It has a deep-fried atmosphere. Also, inside, it is the take-away part with the kitchen - the dining room in a cave downstairs. An upstairs photo shows how it looks down there.

The idea is, customers make their orders and either wait upstairs to take them away, or go downstairsphoto: applying whipped cream and wait for them to be ready. Because of the upstairs atmosphere, I do not bother to check the downstairs atmosphere.

The official history of the café, according to Nick and another guy wearing earrings, is not the same as the seven different newspaper histories that are on the walls in frames.

The other tricky part is putting on the whipped-cream quickly.

Some Australian guys - named Trevor and Ross - with Scottish backgrounds, with a partner named Stéphane with a Paris background, started The Chipper late last spring, after an incredible hassle with all the competent authorities of Paris and their minions.

For two weeks The Chipper had a lady deep-fry cook from Belfast, who is mentioned in some stories, and accounts for the maps of Ireland - but she is herself, long gone. So much for the history then.

The Chipper has a sit-down eat-in menu and a take-away menu. These are yellow and identical, except that fish-and-chips - The Chipper's 'raison d'être' - are 45 francs to take out and 55 francs to have in. Having them 'in' means you can have vinegar on them, which is very correct.

The oil is changed every week. The guy with the earrings says it is best at midweek, after it's been run-in a couple of days. The chips themselves, are the extremely rare 'hand-cut' version, which means they are great, fat, slabs of chips, and not your usual Paris' stick-chips. All 'fresh' fish in Paris comes from Rungis, and The Chipper's is no exception. It is either cod or whiting.

Besides fish-and-chips The Chipper has other interesting menu items; such as 'Battered Sausages and Chips' - for only 30 francs - and 'Battered Onion Rings' and 'Battered Mushrooms' too.

Other house specialties are 'Chicken Mushroom Pie with Chips' for 45 francs. This dish can have the value-added addition of 'Mushy Peas,' and then it costs 60 francs. A new item has been added, called the 'Double Dinkum Dog and Chips' but I do not dare ask what this is.

At the bottom of the menu, there is 'Deep-Fried Mars or Snickers,' for 10 francs.

It is around lunchtime and Nick is busy making orders of fish-and-chips for customers who are waiting for their orders in the dining room in the cellar.

After a bit of hanging around, the guy with the earrings agrees to make me a Deep-Fried Mars bar. He has to wait until Nick has finished with the oil. He offers me a drink and I have an Orangina Rouge, instead of some green muck called 'Hooch.'

You might think cooking a deep-Fried Mars bar is the easiest thing in the world, but it is not. Putting the batter on it is easy - using tongs you just dunk the chocolate bar into the plastic pail of batter.

Then, using a wire-mesh ladle, the batter-covered Mars bar is gently lowered into the boiling oil. Thisphoto: plate of fresh chips is the first tricky part; it requires timing and finesse. In this case, it is a bit overtimed, and the bar, the batter, stick to the ladle.

This is a plate of 'chips,' which should not be confused with typical Paris 'frites.'

After disengaging it - not easy! - the deep-fried Mars bar is placed on one of The Chipper's designer-style white plates - looking a bit like 'nouvelle cuisine,' all alone in the middle of it.

Then - I didn't know this was coming - the earring guy gets out a spray-bomb of whipped-cream and gives the bar a shot of it. The whipped-cream keeps slipping off the top. When it is sort of on, he adds strawberry concentrate from a brick to the top.

Luckily, another guy has come in, and he agrees to taste it. He doesn't eat it all. Since he is from north London and not from north of the border, it is a new thing for him too.

Well. Amazing. I really do not want to ask about the new 'Double Dinkum Dog and Chips' now.

The other guy and I both order chips - for 20 francs - and these are made to fill up whole plates and served as hot as can be. He puts on salt and vinegar and I put on salt, pepper and vinegar. They are too hot at first; as they cool down they get tasty.

While all this has been going on, other customers have come in and given their orders before going downstairs and other customers have stayed upstairs, waiting for their orders to take away.

Nick, the main chip guy, speaks French, but everybody orders in English and the customers all speak pretty good English.

This is not surprising because there are schools all over the neighborhood. So The Chipper is not only a place to have fish-and-chips, it is also a place to practice English at lunchtime.

The only 'English' person in the place is the customer who tried the deep-fired Mars bar. All thephoto: the chipper French customers speak better English-English than anybody else, just like I would speak French-French if I had ever graduated from the Alliance Française.

Here is The Chipper. Remember - low prices means paying with cash.

The deep-fried Mars bars gets The Chipper good coverage, but its regular fish-and-chips are worth a detour because they are inexpensive like fish-and-chips are supposed to be, plus they are good.

Finally, there doesn't seem to be any other place in Paris to get fish-and-chips. There are plenty of places that could make them, but don't. They nearly do, but they don't.

I had to quit my addiction to fish-and-chips 25 years ago on account of it. I was never addicted to Mars bars or whipped cream.

Important Dietary Info

Dr. D. Leslie writes: "I can confidently say that a deep-fried Mars bar is an excellent source of fat, sugar and calories. As such, it is likely to have at least some fat-soluble vitamins, namely vitamins A, D, E & K.

"The Snickers version would have at least some protein due to the peanuts. I have heard of examples of some - gross - people ordering them with a pickled onion. A seasonal variation we have at present [in Glasgow] is the deep-fried Crême Egg - a sweet, chocolatey confection."

The Chipper, 14. Rue Thouin, Paris 5. Métro: Place Monge or Cardinal Lemoine. No cards accepted.

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