Amidst bubbling cauldrons of cooking oil, she sits under the wide canopy of a tree in these shivering early days of Hanoi's short winter. I see her every day. I've known her for years, not in any deeply personal way - more a wave of recognition and a smile or a nod. My knowing of her is limited to observations and snippets of conversation. She rides a bike. She writes sentimental poetry. She is a spinster.
And, most importantly...
She is my fritter frier. By the roadside, this one woman operation is transforming what is essentially healthy food into artery-busting sin food. Thankfully, my lapsed Catholic leanings no longer curtail a bit of gluttony, even on a Sunday!
My fritter frier takes bananas, sweet potato chips and corn kernels, produce ordinarily rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and energy, before drowning them in that evil obesity-friendly substance known as batter. A messy trail of the stuff follows the uncooked fritter from batter drenching bowl to frying pan, where it is gently dunked so as to avoid permanent scaring from flying oil. I do note on this day, though, that my fritter frier has just such an injury on her wrist and has patched herself up with a bit of cloth tied on with the handle of a pink plastic bag!
Upon emerging from the oil, the dripping fritters are placed on a rack to drain, where they remain warm for the next round of customers. From a distance, even up close, it's not unlike the local fish'n'chip shop back home. The banana fritters resemble pieces of deep fried fish, the sweet potato ones kind of look like a lattice potato cake made from chips. All are edged with crisp batter.
All that's left now is the final step. I grab a neatly cut sheet of newspaper and select my own fritter from the rack. The paper absorbs a pitiful amount of the oil.
The rest is now clogging my arteries and adding kilos to my arse!
Two fritters - 6000VND (USD34c, AUD48c)
Banh Chuoi, Banh Khoai, Banh Ngo
Yen Phu St
In summer, my fritter frier serves che.