Paan, an after meal Indian mouth freshener/snack is a folded betel leaf with the insides smeared with slaked lime paste, and filled with betel nut shavings, fruits, aromatics and sometimes other insane additions such as sweetened grated coconut, chocolate, dry fruits etc. Paan is one of the few items which is traditional to India as a whole, much like the Indian tea.
Because of the addition of betel nut pieces and calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) paste, it has a mild psychedelic effect although the amount added in a regular paan is quite minimal.
While in some parts of India, paan is chewed as a milder alternative to getting a tobacco fix, non-betel nut variations such as the chocolate paans and exotic fruit & nut sweet paans are had even as a substitute for dessert.
The non-sweetened version of the Indian paan, with betel or Areca nut pieces and slaked lime paste, is also served at weddings after the wedding feast as a mouth freshener. It is something that eases digestion and quite popular especially with the older people.
We have a regular pitstop at Broadway, Kochi, where the sweet paans are to die for. Last time we checked it was selling for around 60 rupees a paan. His sweet paan has raisins, dried fruits and few other secret ingredients which makes it mouth watering!
The location of this paan-wala cannot be ascertained, but if you are in the area during the late hours, he’ll probably be the only one around 😉