“A few minutes in your mouth, a few hours in stomach but permanently around your waist.”

A casual look at the numerous canteens in government and other offices as well as thattu-kadas (wayside eateries) of Kerala (known as God’s Own Country in tourist brochures) would reveal the State’s favourite mid-morning and late afternoon snack — the humble pazham pori (PP) aka banana fry. It can take the legitimate claim of being the ‘snack of the State’ as it is hardly found elsewhere in the other southern States, where varieties of vada dominate the plates.

For a pazham pori fan, an ideal PP is the one with the banana slice inside just a little overripe and therefore soft. The wheat dough outside must not be too sweet either! The crisp feel of the outside is a big factor that appeals to the taste buds along with the sweet banana inside. This has to be downed with a hot cup of tea and the treat is complete! It is energising in terms of the calories it has to offer. Even a cold pori is delicious.

Doctors advocating dietary controls for preventing degenerative coronary artery disease and brain strokes would be appalled at the very sight of this snack. Dr. Sivasankaran, a cardiologist in our hospital, describes it as an “oil well” and “calorie mine.” The flavonoids which are the antioxidants in the banana get destroyed in the frying process. There is this dietary quote: “A few minutes in your mouth, a few hours in your stomach but permanently around your waist and all the other undesirable places of your body.” It sums up the predicament of all fans of banana fry. The oil for deep frying the snack is used repeatedly, generating carcinogenic substances predisposed to cancers of the gut.

And if you thought that this would dissuade the average pazham pori fan, well then here is the answer. Dr. Rupa Sridhar, another colleague, has found an ingenious way of reducing oil in the banana fry — squeeze the snack with a newspaper sheet till all oil gushes out. Whether PP gets rid of the oil or not, it just works to reduce the guilt of eating one! Hail pazham pori!

(The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Neurosurgery, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram. Email: dreaswer@gmail.com)