Pat the scallops dry with paper towels. Halve any large scallops. Combine the flour and pepper on a flat plate. Roll the scallops in the flour mixture to coat well, shaking off any excess. Dip the flour-coated scallops in the egg and roll in the breadcrumbs.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Pour the vegetable oil into a deep-fryer or a medium sized heavy-based saucepan to a depth of 5 cm.
Heat the oil to 190°C, or until a cube of stale bread browns in 20–30 seconds. Fry the scallops, a few at a time, in the hot oil for 1½–2 minutes, or until golden, turning them once during cooking.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the scallops and drain on paper towels. Transfer them to a shallow baking pan and keep warm in the oven while frying the remaining scallops. Serve with tartare sauce or wedges of lime or lemon.