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Indian Cook Can Dip Hands in Boiling Oil without Pain or Injury

Prem Kumar, from New Delhi, India, regularly shocks people with his high tolerance to heat – the man can fry fish with his bare hands, dipping them into and out of a wok of boiling oil. The 65-year-old runs a street food stall in Karol Bagh, where he serves fried fish to thousands of customers each day. Most of them come just to watch him perform the rare feat of nonchalantly plunging his fingers into hot oil.

Kumar sells about 150 kilograms of deep-fried fish every day, along with other north-Indian delicacies like seekh kabab, mutton tikka, paneer tikka, and tandoori aloo. But a trip to his eatery is incomplete without witnessing Kumar prepare fish with his now-famous heat proof fingers. “I do not fry fish with hands all the time, it’s only when customers ask me for it,” he said. “I normally use kitchen utensils like tongs, but with people coming from all across India and requesting me to do hand frying, I cannot say no.”

Kumar claims to have inherited his special skill from his father, who opened the roadside eatery in 1960. Miraculously, the father-son duo have never suffered a single burn or blister during all these years of business. But Kumar says there’s no magic involved and attributes it to years of practice. “This is no miracle or gift of God,” he insisted. “As a child, I saw my father doing it and got curious how he could pull off that feat. I started with dipping my one finger in the boiling oil, then two, and so on. I realised that it did not cause any burns or injury whatsoever. Over the years, I built up confidence and now it as is easy for me as breathing.”

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Photo: Barcroft TV video caption

As it turns out, Kumar’s superhuman ability does have a scientific explanation – it’s called the Leidenfrost effect. It states that people can actually submerge their hands in very hot liquids without injury, only if they first dip their hands in cold water. That way, the hot liquid only heats the water on the skin and converts it to steam. The steam creates a protective barrier that prevents the liquid from coming into contact with the skin. This only works for a short period of time, so you’ve got to be quick to remove your hand before the barrier is lost.

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Photo: Karuna Madan/Gulf News

“It is unbelievable how he hand-fries fish fingers, how he plunges his bare hands into oil heated to 200˚C and retrieves frying fish,” said Somesh Pattnaik, a regular customer at the eatery. “This is obviously related to fire walking, where the phenomenon is due to small bubbles of insulating moisture or sweat creating a barrier between the skin and the superheated medium. One can pour a couple of drops of cold water onto a red hot electric cooker ring while wearing glasses to see the effect for oneself. It is not also much different from lying on a bed of nails. It is just mind over matter.”

 

And that’s exactly the trick that Kumar has managed to perfect over the years. But it’s still kind of cool to watch. And as for hygiene, Kumar insists that he maintains “supremely sanitised hands” and even if there were any germs on his hands, the boiling hot oil would kill them instantly. For now, he’s happy performing his trick for customers and hopes that his son Deepak Kumar, 26, will catch up with him pretty soon. “He can do it easily because it runs in our family.”

Mr. Prem is not the only one with burn-resistant hands. Kann “Superhands” Trichan, a street cook from Thailand, also rose to fame in his home city of Chiang Mai after boiling chicken in hot oil and picking it out with his bare hands.

Source: Gulf News

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