Video: Paanwala of Delhi

By • Dec 31st, 2011
Category: Books and Authors, Food, India, Life, Only in India, YouTube Videos

Paan. What a great way to end the year with a paan that aids in digesting all the news/videos/songs we consumed in 2011 including the video of the year Kolaveri Di. All your kolaveri induced emotions should subside with a nice, mitha (sweet) paan. If you’ve never had paan, let’s take you behind the scene and introduce you to the ubiquitous paanwala (the one who makes the paan), who is part and parcel of the colorful, vibrant and stunning Indian culinary landscape. Paan or bettle leaf is originally from South-East Asia that made its way into different parts of India, where it is consumed in different ways.

Paanwala – you fill find them tucked away in street corners or outside restaurants in most parts of India. On a recent culinary tour of Old Delhi we spotted this paanwala, and foodie and foodwriter Marryam Reshii deconstructs the ingredients that go into making a paan. Don’t miss the rows of glittering “paan masala” packets shown at the end of the video clip. Marryam points out how these packets did not exist until about late 1980s, but are now quite common.

Those paan masala packets spell destruction to the traditional paan writes Prof. Pushpesh Pant, who has a new book coming out in early 2012. “What calls for lament is the untimely demise of the noble leaf caused by the proliferation of paan masalas under various brands. What remains are fragile memories of the leaf of myriad delights,” writes Prof. Pant in this article published in Open.

Now, if you ever you find yourself in Delhi, you might want to check out the hub of the paan business in the city. Or, if you prefer to be an armchair traveler you can read “Painting The Town Red,” where Mayank Sufi Austen paints a rather interesting picture of this paan business,  and  the how the beetel leaf travels from different parts of India to land up in the hands of various paanwalas of the city.

Now painting the town red is not always good. In 2011 paan made quite a bit of headline. Not paan, but that red juice of the paan that is liberally sprayed and spewed all over the country. The juice of that paan or more precisely the  juice from the “ghutka” (sold in those glittering packages)  is so potent that it is apparently leading to the destruction of Calcutta’s iconic symbol – the  Howrah Bridge.

Maybe the crumbling of the structure is a gentle reminder of our need to be civil, polite and mindful of our actions?

Anyway, have a paan, or maybe a paan cocktail  or paan liqueur (yes, there is one) and ring in the new year. Here is to a wonderful and happy 2012 and to some wonderful and happy memories of 2011.

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One Response »

  1. Interesting.
    I partake occasionally.
    I enjoy it but have managed not to get addicted.

    I prefer the South Indian Madras Paan .
    That is more pungent.
    In south India, formalities and ceremonies associated with welcoming and bidding farewell invariably includes the plate with “Vethalai paaku”
    The north Indian paans are invariably sweet . I eat them for a change on occasion.
    I also am suspicious of the stuff that these Paanwaalas pack in
    I once heard they often pack in aphrodisiacs in some higher priced concoctions with fancy namees.
    I have heard of a certain paanwaala who named one of his creations as Palang Thod!
    I prefer our South Indian Beeda.
    I don’t know how paan got associated with spitting.
    I never felt the need to do so. I simply swallowed the tasty juices.
    Spitting is much less common in South India. I wonder why.
    Paan has been romanticised by many writers particularly in our regional languages.
    I remember the song from Don “Khaike paan Banareswaala.. ” picturised on Big B
    I also remember another old Padma Khanna number “paan khaaye Sai~nyaa hamaaro”


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