I love a regional food debate — soda versus pop; Maine versus Connecticut lobster rolls; and, growing up in South New Jersey, the one I heard most often, hoagie versus sub. I enjoy respectful food discourse because it’s fun, and it keeps my passion for cooking alive. That’s why when I stumbled across the viral “potato scallops versus cakes” conversation, I simply couldn’t turn away.
Potato scallops are battered and deep-fried potato slices — commonly eaten in Australia. But, a new menu item at McDonald’s locations in Australia called Potato Scallops with Chicken Salt is causing controversy. Why? Because not everyone calls it a potato scallop. In different parts of Australia, it’s a “potato cake” or “fritter.” I don’t have a fork in this food fight, but I researched these crunchy potato slices in order to make them at home.
Potato-gate 2023 — The Name That Divided a Nation
In 2015, Melbourne University’s Dr. Jill Vaughan and two other linguistic experts surveyed more than 20,000 Australians. The survey’s purpose was to see how strong regional divides are when it comes to certain words — including potato scallops. Regarding this dish, they found that Western and South Australians preferred calling it a potato fritter. By contrast, respondents from Victoria stood firm in naming it a potato cake — and participants from New South Wales called it a scallop. Dr. Vaughan concluded that in Australia, various words are a part of each state’s identity. “People feel very strongly about the words they use to name a certain thing,” Dr. Vaughan told News.com.au.
This is true now more than ever, with the McDonald’s potato scallop igniting online debates following its January 11 release. One Reddit user in r/Melbourne says the fast food chain “snubbed its nose at Victoria and Tasmania.” Meanwhile, Australian singer Darren Hayes drew his line in the sand by simply tweeting, “It’s a potato scallop.” — which gained over two thousand likes. It’s clear that this discussion isn’t coming to an end any time soon. However, it piqued my interest in making the deep-fried delight — I wanted to see for myself whether it’s worth all this arguing about!
How To Make Potato Scallops
This potato scallop recipe comes from food author Jane Lawson’s book Milkbar Memories (Buy from Amazon, $34.12). Lawson’s very confident about what makes a potato scallop delicious: “Good potato scallops are fluffy on the inside, with super-crunchy exteriors — I don’t care what you call them, just pass ’em to me!” she writes on Sbs.com.au. Here’s how to make a batch of mouthwatering potato scallops yourself:
- 3 large, floury potatoes (such as russets)
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1½ cups sparkling mineral water, club soda, or beer
- Vegetable or olive oil, for deep-frying
- Fine sea salt, for sprinkling
- Prep: 12 mins
- Cook: 35 mins
- Total time: 47 mins
- Yield: 4 servings
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Peel potatoes and cut slices into ¾-inch thick rounds. Place in roasting pan and cover well with boiling water. Cover tightly with foil and cook 15 minutes, or until just tender. Meanwhile, line counter with clean tea towels.
- Remove pan from oven. Remove foil, and allow to cool 30 minutes. Use slotted spatula to carefully transfer potato slices to prepared area, placing them in single layer; then leaving until cool and nearly dry to touch. (Keep eye on them because if left too long they will discolor.)
- Fill deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan to ⅓ full with oil. Heat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or until bread cube dropped into oil turns golden brown in 15 seconds.
- Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in bowl and create well in center. Gradually pour in mineral water, club soda, or beer, and whisk until smooth, slightly thick batter forms.
- Working in batches, dip potato slices into batter and cook 7 to 8 minutes, or until batter is deep golden and crisp.
- Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with fine sea salt. Serve immediately, or keep warm in low oven while you cook remaining potato scallops.
My Taste Test
Although this recipe wasn’t quick to make, it was better than I imagined. The batter made the outside crisp, but left the inside tender and creamy. The final sprinkle of sea salt gave the scallops the right amount of seasoning, plus I squeezed on some fresh lemon for a tangy flavor that cut through the grease. I’d definitely make potato scallops again, but I’d serve them with ketchup and other dips for a complete snack.
As for the controversy about its name, I understand the reason for the divide — it doesn’t fit the bill of a traditional cake or scallop, after all. Still, it’s too appetizing to resist. So, I’ll keep enjoying these potato slices as the scallop versus cake versus fritter debate rages on.
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