Meet Prem Kumar, the man who can dip his hands in boiling oil without experiencing pain or burns.
The 65-year-old man of New Delhi, India, runs a street food stall in Karol Bagh, where he serves fried fish to thousands of customers who are regularly shocked with his high tolerance to heat. Most of them come just to watch him perform his bizarre stunt of simply plunging his fingers into a boiling oil.
Kumar sells about 150 kilograms of deep-fried fish every day and 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. 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,” he said.
According to Kumar, he had inherited his special skills from his father, who opened the roadside eatery in 1960. Amazingly, the father and son duo have never suffered a single burn or blister during all these years of business and he emphasized that there’s no magic involved.
This is no miracle or gift of God. 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,” he insisted.
However, Kumar’s superhuman ability does have a scientific explanation – it’s called the Leidenfrost effect. The Leidenfrost effect means 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.
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. 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.