The Indian Paan - A Traditional Indian Mouth Freshener And Digestive
The Current Scenario - Update : 22 August 2015
The paanwala today, a few have become tech savvy and have outlets in airconditioned malls and shops. Some have their own websites where paan can be ordered and delivery is made as per the customers' choice at their homes.
One paanwala in New Delhi, Pandey Paan, claims to have served all politicians and all Indian Presidents since Indian Independence. He serves over 75 varieties of paans and all his products are tobacco free.
Pandey has served paans to President, Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton & former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Paan is a traditional digestive and mouth freshener used in India, since ancient times. It is chewed and eaten usually after meals but it can be consumed any time of the day.
Paan is consumed in many Asian countries including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bamgladesh, Sri Lanka, Philipines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vitenam and Laos,
Paan has several ingredients that go into its preparation. Four things that are necessary to make a paan are :
- Betel leaf
- Catechu paste
- Areca nut
- Slaked lime paste
Different variations of paan are built from here. Different regions in India also have their own variations.
After adding the various ingredients to the betel leaf, it is folded into a triangular shape called a "Bida" or "Gilauree".
Some people add tobacco to the pan which then makes the paan harmful to health.
Paan was invented by the scholars of Ayurveda thousands of years ago. Reference to paan found in the ancient Indian vedic text " The Bhagvata Purana" goes back to about 5000 years. It references Lord Krishna as having eaten paan.
The popular tradition of paan eating was started by Queen Noor Jehan, mother of Emperor Shah Jehan, who got the famous Taj Mahal constructed.
Varieties Of Betel Leaves
There are 3 types of betel leaves that are used in making pan. They are:
- Kalkatta - A dark green colored leaf
- Banarasi - A light green colored leaf
- Maghai - A leaf available in both shades of green but having smaller leaves than the above two varieties.
Kalkatta leaf is the most popular of all.
The person who makes paan is called "paanwala". Paan can be bought at almost every street corner of India. The pan shop is not a big or elaborate structure. In fact it is a small wooden structure about 5 feet by 5 feet. You can see one such structure in the picture below.
Paan ShopClick thumbnail to view full-size
Different Types Of Paan
Some of the main types of paan that are prepared are :
- Sada Paan - It is the simplest type of paan. Most of the time areca nut, catechu paste and slaked lime paste is added to the betel leaf. Menthol powder, cardamom or clove can be added if the customer so prefers.
- Meetha Paan - It is a sweet paan with along with the above some spices like fennel seeds, cinnamom powder etc, gulkand, tutty fruity etc being also added.
- Tambakhu Paan - It is a sada pan to which tobacco leaf powder is added.
- Trento/olerno paan - It is a mint flavored paan.
Within these broad types, the leaves can be interchanged or different combinations of ingredients can be made as per the customer's choice.
Some more types of paan can be seen in the pictures below.
Different Types Of PaanClick thumbnail to view full-size
Ingredients Used In Paan
In the picture below, you can see some of the ingredients used in making paan. They are :
- Betel leaf - the leaf of the vine Piper betle.
- Areca nut- the seed of the plant Areca catechu. Both roasted and unroasted seeds are used. It is also called betel nut.
- Katha - catechu paste made from the bark of the plant Acacia catechu.
- Slaked lime paste - made with water.
- Gulkand - rose petals candied in sugar.
- Grated coconut.
- Spices - fennel seeds, cardamom, cinnamon powder, cloves, nutmeg powder wtc.
- Tutty frutty.
- Syrup of powdered rose leaves.
- Menthol powder
- Camphor powder.
- Dried dates.
- Hara patta - dried green leaves.
- Tobacco powder - This is ONLY USED for those who are used to consuming tobacco and ask specifically for its addition to their paan.
Different Ingredients Used In A Paan
Making a paan
Watch How Paan Is Made In The Video Below
Paan Chewing - Some Research & Views
Though the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), accept scientific evidence confirming that chewing paan and consuming areca nut is cancer causing, there is research that underlines the health benefits of betel leaf and some of the ingredients used in paan, barring tobacco of course, which does cause cancer.
Read the following :
More About Paan
Paan is also served in traditional ceremonies like marriages, receptions and religious festivals. It is a refreshing indulgence anytime of the day. Eating an occasional pan is a treat some people enjoy. Consuming paan regularly stains the teeth and gums permanently a reddish color because of the catechu paste.
For many of the regulars these paan shops have become a meeting place for friends to get together for a chit chat especially in the evenings or at night. Many paanwalas have installed small television sets that serve to entertain their customers whenever there is a cricket match going on and one can find hordes of people crowded around the paanwala's shop during such matches.
Truly, for the paanwalas the business is as brisk as ever and most of them keep their shops open well into the night to serve their clientele.
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The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
Tobacco use is not suggested here in any way.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly
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