“Paan” – Now that is a difficult “concept” to explain in English. Literally – its the leaf of the Betel Nut creeper plant. But, in India, this concept is deeply rooted in our culture. Thousands of years ago it was found that chewing of this leaf is good for digestion. The tradition of eating Paan was popularized by Queen Noorjehan, the mother of King Shahjehan who built the world famous Taj Mahal for his Queen.
The Paan leaf is used to wrap certain ingredients into a triangular shape and then inserted into the mouth whole and chewed . This entire piece is called a “Paan”. The most important ingredient is the areca nut (”sopari”). Besides this various flavors are added to customize it to an individuals taste.
Paan stalls can be found at every corner, outside restaurants or just wherever people gather to relax. Theoretically a Paan can be compared to an after dinner mint, but culturally it plays a far more significant role. Thereby the maker of the Paan takes on a key sociological role. His role can be considered akin to that of a bartender – where he develops an interesting relationship with his customers, and the good paan wallahs have quite a sense of humor.