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Paan: an Indian delicacy
January 12, 2008 11:59 AM   Subscribe

Meet Muchhad ( ~ someone with a prominent mustache), the name given to a Paan seller in Mumbai, and his shop. (Never eaten a paan before, no matter, here’s what the folks at IndiaMike have to say.) Of course, you’d better be careful, it can be hazardous to your health. But, there are other alternatives for its taste. [video of muchhad paan waala | youtube | paan virgin spits]
posted by hadjiboy (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nitpicking the hazardous link:

"In addition to the risk factors of smoking and chewing tobacco, oral cancer occurs more frequently among African Americans than among Caucasians and among people who chew areca nuts, betel nuts, paan and gutka (a common practice among some people in India AND Asia)."

Whaa?
posted by basicchannel at 2:21 PM on January 12, 2008


This is really interesting. What's the texture of the leaf like? Is it soft like lettuce or hard like...um..collards or a deciduous tree leaf? I want one. Just not one with tobacco. No thanks to puking.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2008


Do you eat it, or just chew it? (I apparently have a lot of questions!)
posted by Stewriffic at 2:39 PM on January 12, 2008


My mother in law is addicted to this stuff. It has made her teeth an "interesting" colour. Stewriffic, it's not soft like lettuce, in my limited experience. It's more chewy and substantial.
posted by jamesonandwater at 4:09 PM on January 12, 2008


Stewriffic: The texture is pleasingly crunchy, like biting into a lettuce wrap, except the betel leaf is thick with a flavor all its own.

Do you eat it, or just chew it?

No, you just chew it, and spit out whatever saliva that accumalates from eating it.
posted by hadjiboy at 6:11 PM on January 12, 2008


I got sucked into all the links; I love finding things out like this about cultures I know little of. This is fascinating. Does it make you sick if you swallow the saliva? The stuff I've read on wikipedia about paan, the betel palm and its nuts indicate there's an intoxicating effect, and that it's slightly addictive, in addition to turning people's mouths and lips red. Is there any tradition/law about children chewing/eating paan?

(Sorry for such ignorance on my part.)
posted by Stewriffic at 6:35 PM on January 12, 2008


I just came back from a trip to India (landed in O'Hare earlier this afternoon), I wanted so much to rekindle the taste of paan from my youth. I was advised against it from all my Indian-resident relatives. Even they don't touch the stuff, as they don't trust the water the leaves are cleaned with, etc.

I do have to say that, there is paan "patte" available (if you can call them that). They're made from the same Paan ingredients, but shrink-wrapped for single bite sizes available here in the States.

My parents sometimes send me some from Jackson Heights, NY.
posted by lonemantis at 7:32 PM on January 12, 2008


Awesome post dear hadjiboy, just my cup of chai.

You are so naughty posting about a "condom flavoured with the popular mixture of betel nut and tobacco known as paan is to go on sale in India, newspapers said Tuesday". I cannot believe that! Paan flavored condom?! Now, really, I've heard of everything. I think I've come to the end of knowledge with that.

That marvelously mustachioed character, Muchad, is delightful. So nicely Indian, charming in a twinkly eyed kind of way, quirky, creative, dedicated and lovable.

Ok, an anecdote. In 1975, when I arrived in India, age 21, I had no idea what the hell paan was. Standing in the funky Jammu bus station, I watched people spitting dark orange/red onto the walls. There were stains and brick red splats all over the place. India had leprosy but omg, they must have a lot of tuberculosis, all these people are spewing blood all over the place! Oh the horror! There were people with bizarre looking mouths too, all orange, like lipstick nightmares on men. And there were these outdoor stands with people making weird stuff using leaves. I thought, " What the hell is that?" Was it for polishing shoes or eating?

And then I watched one of these concoctions being created, wow. So beautiful! Got pushed into trying one. Paan is somewhere between, gee, it's like nothing else. The leaf part is like putting a candy with a waxed paper wrapper in one's mouth, but then it's crunchable. The stuff inside is kind of like Dentyne with exotic flavors. But it's more than that, it's an oral entertainment.

In Taiwan they have this totally different take on betel nut vendors, it's sort of soft core porn. No gigantic mustaches. Model style women delivering the betel nut to the car window. Here are the Betelnut Beauties of Taiwan. A betel nut babe in Taiwan.

Another aspect of betel, beads used in making jewelry, a beautiful old paan box and a newer one with compartments for the different ingredients. Baskets used to store the betel nuts. Now available in NYC.

The ready-made in a box, Pan Paraag, is what I prefer. Small quantities and really enjoyable.
posted by nickyskye at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does it make you sick if you swallow the saliva?

Yeah, I wouldn't suggest that. Your first impulse is to swallow, but don't. Some people who eat it constantly carry around a mug which they use for spitting into, and of course, there are always spittoons, but most people here who chew it can't help spitting it out on the road, or the sidewalk, or a wall/lamp-post/etc. Personally, I have never gotten into the habit of eating paan, thankfully (yeah, sure, it's great and all, the first few times you have it, but if it becomes a habit, it can become quite dangerous). Also, about the spitting thing: it's quite an art over here. I thought that people just spit it out (when usually travelling by car or bike or bus), but they don't seem to be that thoughtless thank god. You'll usually notice a head coming out of a window of a car, or bending down from a bike, and before taking aim, slowing down a little (sometimes they'll even turn back to see if anyone's there, but the more "professional" ones I'm assuming don't bother with that), and then squirting out a red liquid straight onto the ground. (There are cases where some nimrod will totally overlook this rule, and just spit straight out the window, which will then cause the person who's just been unlucky enough to have had the contents of said nimrod's mouth on his shirt, chase him down, and get into a furious argument about how stupid he is).

Is there any tradition/law about children chewing/eating paan?

Sorry if this is getting a bit too self-bloggish, but since we seem to be the only ones here: why not?;)
I attended a wedding a couple of weeks back, and they had set up a little paan stall in one corner of the lawn, and after having the meal I went to hang out there and see the guy behind the table preparing the stuff, and up comes this little kid (must've been no older than four or five), in a cute little kurta-pyjama, and orders one for himself. (Although, in some families, it is frowned upon for children to be indulging in such activities, it does seem fun to have it at least once in awhile, especially at marriage ceremonies.)

I was advised against it from all my Indian-resident relatives. Even they don't touch the stuff, as they don't trust the water the leaves are cleaned with, etc.

Haha, yeah, I can relate, but after living over here for 15 years, you sort of give up on the idea of everything being sanitized 100%, and succumb to some of the more daring endeavours--like eating papdi from a roadside vendor--who makes the best papdi I've ever tasted.
posted by hadjiboy at 8:47 PM on January 12, 2008


nicky!!! just what this thread needed:)
posted by hadjiboy at 8:48 PM on January 12, 2008


Wow, I so enjoyed this post hadjiboy! Like Stewriffic, I very much enjoy finding out about these little inter-cultural nooks and crannies of which I am ignorant. I love all the additions you made, too, nickyskye - wonderful links and your perspective as the outsider discovering this is fun. How intriguing paan looks, except all those packets look too big to chew in one mouthful!

Well I have nothing to add about paan, but I do have an intriguing India-related clip. It has no direct connection to the post topic unless some of the vendors are selling paan, but I just stumbled on this clip last night and so enjoyed it, I want to share it. So I am going to tuck in in this thread as some background color hoping any India-philes will enjoy it too since I don't think it would stand alone as an fpp: India Railway Tour.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:46 PM on January 12, 2008


ah, thanks dear madamjujujive, just loved the train ride in the Punjab. Sure had a lot of Sikhs in that carriage. When the men were carrying swords, it's part of the Five K's of Sikhism. Isn't it cool all the colors of the turbans, the way the very old and very young hang out together in such a relaxed way? The beautiful faces. I love that. Am still in love with India after all these years, can't help it, just the way love is.
posted by nickyskye at 11:33 PM on January 12, 2008


Hmmm. I see here is a clip of a Paan-eating contest in Rusholme. Given that I'm in Manchester on Tuesday, I'll have to seek them out. There's gotta be somewhere on the Curry Mile where you can buy the stuff.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:29 AM on January 13, 2008


There's gotta be somewhere on the Curry Mile where you can buy the stuff

There is at least one (or there was until recently - I've not been to Rusholme for a few months). There's a small vegetarian takeaway towards the southern end of Rusholme on Wilmslow Road that sells paan. It took me awhile to work out what it was when I first saw it. Dry snack mix? Potpourri? Cake ingredient? It's towards the back of the shop.

I kept to the fried food and left it alone.
posted by BinaryApe at 6:27 AM on January 13, 2008


Thought I'd share this self-link to a drawing of paan that I dissected before eating.

Mmmm...travel !
posted by tingting at 8:08 AM on January 13, 2008


: Ooops, lets try that again :

self-link to a drawing of paan that I dissected before eating
posted by tingting at 8:10 AM on January 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


ooh tingting, wonderful drawings and great collage. More more! (love your charming bird creations and your clean website designs too).
posted by nickyskye at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2008


I tried it in Vancouver BC. YAY alkaloids!
posted by Area Control at 5:20 PM on January 13, 2008


I have paan once every two years, and I tend to eat it. Never knew it had tobacco, though.
Haha, yeah, I can relate, but after living over here for 15 years, you sort of give up on the idea of everything being sanitized 100%, and succumb to some of the more daring endeavours--like eating papdi from a roadside vendor--who makes the best papdi I've ever tasted.
My father and uncles all grew up in Hyderabad, and they keep talking about various roadside stalls or restaurants that serve the best chai or chutney-cucumber sandwiches.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 5:11 PM on January 14, 2008


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