01.12 mmm... leafy greens

so i have a slight addiction.

i've been sneaking to the paan-wallas every day (sometimes more than once a day). i only do it when no one's looking... i guess that's a bad sign, huh?

i don't know what it is. they are just so good and so fun to eat. traditionally eaten by high-society, paan are the things that everyone can eat when out at night, after dinner at the paan-wallas. i've tried to give them to friends back in toronto and all have had the same response... they couldn't handle it! some people described it to chewing a mouthful of candied insense. yes it's true, when you eat the stuff you can feel the aroma of it swirling in your mouth and out through your nostrils. very much an acquired taste. they taste the exact same here as they do back in toronto's little india. but back in toronto i didn't have a paan habit.

paan is the indian after dinner mint... it's chewed to give you an aromatic, refreshing taste, to sweeten your mouth and breath. it's made from the betel leaf, onto which the paan-wallah spreads some syruppy lime paste, then covers with coconut shavings, dollops of sweet cherry paste, rose paste and sprinkles with little fennel seeds, anise seeds, tiny little red candies and some other miscellaneous spices and stuff. i love watching as the paan-walla's dextrous fingers wrap the leaf with all this inside into a little triangle and bam! you got paan.

my mouth is watering just thinking about them... and i've already had one today.

the thing that makes paan more illicit is the traditional method - most people have paan with betel nut shavings. some say it's not betel nut but another related seed. both are really hard rock-like things. some, like my great-grandmother, also take their paan with chewing tobacco, which they spit out. actually i think she opted for just the chewing tobacco alone, without the paan! but that dark, lovely, sweet and heavy aroma....mmmmm!

personally i prefer 'virgin' or sweet paan - what is called 'mitha' paan. it's supposed to provide good digestion and clear the blood, the betel nut has been banned back in canada because it's been linked with mouth cancer. i think it's mostly the chewing tobacco that does that, but that's just my guess. i hope a few mitha paan won't kill me!

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