Cassava chips

When you go out for a walk at night on the streets of Kochi, as you near the Old Fort harbour front, you’ll find a wonderful assortment of street food vendors. Known as wallahs or workers in India, they usually do one thing and they do it very well. This is definitely the case for these Chilli Salted Cassava Fries.

We met the young wallah, Shivalingam, responsible for them on our research trip in 2016. As we stood watching, he took tender young cassava roots and sliced them paper thin onto a makeshift wooden counter at the side of his small cart. A light bulb glared its starkness down over him and allowed him not to cut off his fingers while he sliced.

He then patted the slices dry and slid them gently into a waiting wok of sunflower oil. While they turned golden, he slit open a paper bag to act as a receptacle for their exit from the pan. Once they were all out, he shook the perfect amount of salt and chilli powder over them and scooped them into newspaper cones for us.

We couldn’t wait to get back to our hotel. We began munching those Chilli Salted Cassava Fries immediately. And, we still had some left when we ordered a couple of mugs of beer back at our hotel’s lounge. What a perfect end to a tropical evening’s walk. That’s the delight of street food. It always seems to be exactly what you’re craving – whether you knew it or not. And, it leaves an indelible taste memory that makes you crave it eternally.

Chili Salted Cassava Fries Recipe

4 servings


Sunflower oil for frying
2 to 3 tender young cassava roots (about 1 lb)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Indian chilli powder


  1. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok.
    Note: the oil should be between 350 – 370°F or if you don’t have a thermometer, a drop of water should crackle and disappear when dropped on the oil.
  2. Slice the cassava root as thinly as possible (it’s best to use a mandolin), then pat it dry and drop the slices one by one into the oil.
  3. Stir them gently with a slotted spoon, cooking until golden.
  4. Remove the golden chips to a baking sheet lined with paper towels for a few moments and then transfer them to a big bowl to toss with the salt and chilli powder once all of the slices are cooked.
  5. Serve in individual parchment bags or newspaper rolled into cones.
  6. Enjoy with a fresh lime soda or ice cold beer.

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