Malabar Paan (from Sanskrit parṇa meaning “leaf“) is a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut widely consumed throughout Southeast Asia, East Asia (mainly Taiwan), and the Indian subcontinent. Plain paan is a stimulant with psychoactive effects on the body and is commonly mixed with areca nut. After chewing paan, most people swallow it or spit it out. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. Paan has many variations. Slaked lime (chunnam) paste is commonly added to bind the leaves. Some preparations in the Indian subcontinent include katha paste or mukhwas to refresh the breath.
Paan made with areca nut and lime, with or without tobacco, causes profuse red coloured salivation, known in Tok Pisin as buai pekpek. This saliva is spat, yielding stains and biological waste pollution in public spaces. Many countries and municipalities have laws to prevent paan spit.
The skilled paan maker is known as a paanwala or paan walahin North India. They are known as paanwalas, panwaris or panwadis in other parts of India. Whatever you call them, the paan makers are often on street corners with recipes to enjoy paan. They serve fillings that can range from candied fruit, raisins, to mukhwas, cardamom, saffron, roasted coconut, Areca nut, slaked lime paste, and even edible silver leaf.
Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel leaf is a tradition, custom or ritual which dates back thousands of years from India to the Pacific. Ibn Battuta describes this practice as follows: “The betel is a tree which is cultivated in the same manner as the grape-vine; … The betel has no fruit and is grown only for the sake of its leaves … The manner of its use is that before eating it one takes areca nut; this is like a nutmeg but is broken up until it is reduced to small pellets, and one places these in his mouth and chews them. Then he takes the leaves of betel, puts a little chalk on them, and masticates them along with the betel.” Since the introduction of tobacco from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern Hemisphere, it has been an optional addition to paan.
Paan chewing constitutes an important and popular cultural activity in many Asian and Oceanic countries, including India, Myanmar, Cambodia, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, and Vietnam.
Paan is a ubiquitous sight in many parts of South and Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, it is known as Mama or Maman in Ilokano, Sirih in Indonesian, Suruh in Javanese, Sla (ស្លា) in Khmer, Mark (ໝາກ) in Lao, Sireh in Malay language, Ngangà in Tagalog, and Buai in Tok Pisin. In the Indian subcontinent, it is known as Paan in Assamese, Foah in Dhivehi, Beeda in Hindi, Veelya or Taamboola or Yele adike in Kannada, Vetrrilai or Thambulam in Tamil, Killi and Tambulum in Telugu, Bulath in Sinhalese, Faan in Sylheti and Gillauri in Urdu.
In urban areas, chewing paan is generally considered a nuisance because some chewers spit the paan out in public areas – compare chewing gum ban in Singapore and smoking ban. The red stain generated by the combination of ingredients when chewed are known to make a colourful stain on the ground. This is becoming an unwanted eyesore in Indian cities such as Mumbai, although many see it as an integral part of Indian culture. This is also common in some of the Persian Gulf countries, such as the UAE and Qatar, where many Indians live. Recently, the Dubai government has banned the import and sale of paan and the like.
According to traditional Ayurvedic medicine, chewing betel leaf is a remedy against bad breath (halitosis), but it can possibly lead to oral cancer.
Well-made paan is a sight to behold. In ancient India, and even today in the homes of Paan connoisseurs, special paan folding techniques are used. The gilouri, or triangle shape, is most popular and the shape is held in place by first folding the paan as desired and then inserting a clove into it (to act as a pin). The prepared paans are then placed in a special covered dish called the Khaas Daan. There are varied opinions on whether paan should be swallowed after chewing or spat out (into a special spittoon) after the flavors have been enjoyed.
Pan isn’t necessarily a food, and its nature has come under fire in many areas of India. In Mumbai, for example, officials have tried to put pictures of Hindu gods in places where people tend to spit it out. It has also been criticized for the health effects of people spitting it out in public places. More people nowadays chew tobacco instead, as water supply issues have made it harder to get the leaves.
Still, giving it out is commonly a sign of hospitality in many Indian homes. And for those who visit India, it is a common must-try practice. Though some say it can be harmful, enjoying various types of paan is a popular experience for many people who live in India, as well as those who visit the country.
Required Material List (ingredients):
1. 4”-5” in length Betel leaf (Paan patta)
2. A paste of Lime Stone powder and water (Chuna)
3. A paste of Catechu and water (Kattha)
4. Sweet Powder – Sugar, Powder rose leaves, Perfumes, Menthol and red food colour
5. A mix of vegetable and fruit powder (Heera Panna)
6. Diced Betel Nut (Supari)
7. Dates (Khajoor)
8. Grated Saffron Betel Nut (Kesari Supari )
9. Green Leaves (Hara Patta)