Name: Aboobacker Siddique
Occupation: Making banana chips
“Making banana chips is a job I learnt as a boy. Nobody taught me, I watched and learned as my father ran a chips business in Mankavu. I studied till the seventh grade and then started helping him. Now my brothers take care of my father’s business. Over the years, I have mostly stuck to the chips trade though in between I even tried my hand at making biryani for weddings. Eventually, I got back to chips making. I also had a short stint in Thiruvananthapuram where I worked for a company that exported chips to the Gulf.
However, I returned to Kozhikode and now live with my wife, two children and mother in Vellimadukunnu. I have been working at Kumari Banana Chips for over a year now. The speciality of chips here is that it is wafer thin and it was not difficult for me to learn cutting bananas that fine.
Everyday, there will be three of us to take care of frying chips here. We start at around 9 a.m. The beginners are usually given the task of peeling the bananas. Here the bananas are sourced from parts of Tamil Nadu now. Once it is all peeled, we begin with the slicing. It is followed by washing, then dipping it in salt water, adding a pinch of turmeric and then frying in coconut oil. We fry chips through the day till about 5.30 – 6 in the evening. In all, it would be about 30 kg of chips each day.
Since the kiln is hot, we take turns at frying. One of us will be in charge till noon and then another takes over. The fire is kept modulated and we have to put coconut husk in it every now and then. Yes, standing near the fire can be tough, but then one gets used to it.
Scooping up the chips from oil every now and then prevents the pieces from sticking together. The trick is in knowing exactly how much to fry. Here, we do it for exactly five minutes, till it is fresh, crisp and golden. A minute longer and the chips would turn brown. We do not wear a watch to keep track of frying time. We just know by seeing it.
(A weekly column on the men and women who make Kozhikode what it is.)