Paan is a South, East and South East Asian tradition of chewing Betel leaf (Piper betel) with areca nut. There are regional variations. Paan is chewed as a palate cleanser and a breath freshener. It is offered to guests and visitors as a sign of hospitality and at the beginning of social events. Paan makers may use mukhwas or tobacco in paan fillings. Most paan contains areca nuts as a filling. Other types include what is called sweet paan, where sugar, candied fruit and fennel seeds are used. The traditional way of paan making, storing and serving is interesting. The leaves are stored wrapped in a moist, red colored cloth called shaal-baaf, inside a metal casket called Paan Daani. The Paan Daani has several lidded compartments, each for storing a different filling or spice. To serve, a leaf is removed from the wrapping cloth, de-veined, and kattha and lime paste is generously applied on its surface. This is topped with tiny pieces of Areca nuts, cardamom saffron, (un)/roasted coconut pieces/powder, cloves, tobacco etc, according to the eater’s personal preferences. The leaf is then folded in a special manner into a triangle, called Gilouree and is ready to be eaten. On special occasions, the gilouree is wrapped in delicate silver leaf (vark). To serve, a silver pin is inserted to prevent the gilouree from unfolding, and placed inside a domed casket called Khaas-daan. Alternatively, the gilouree is sometimes held together by a paper or foil folded into a funnel with the gilouree’s pointed end inserted inside it. Voracious paan eaters do not swallow, instead, they chew it, enjoying its flavors, and then spit it into a spittoon. Varanasi is famous for Banarasi Paan. Just near our lodge there was a paan shop. We tasted Banarasi paan and it was great.
Paan shop near our lodge: