I’ve rolled a couple paans here in the United States.  You can get the basic ingredients at some Indian grocers, or I understand if you live in Chicago or New Jersey you can even purchase one freshly made.  Unfortunately, in Portland the resemblance is quite mere.  The paans I’ve made were from betel leaves so astringent they were reminiscent of novocaine.  More anesthetic than digestif.

Not so the juicy, delicate leaves in India.  Here’s a pale-leafed variety, called Banarsi, hailing from, uh, Benares.

The essential innards are 1) the betel nut, cut in a variety of manners 2) chuna (calcium hydoxide/lime) which activates the betel nut, I understand and 3) kattha, a pale brown bark powder made into a paste.  This can be eaten in many varieties, plain as above.  Or trumped up with tobacco in various strengths (not for me) or all sorts of sugary things (for me).

On Park Street in Calcutta, I started buying some sweet paans.  Here’s three tucked into a banana leaf to-go carrier…

and filled with fennel, sugar candies, rose petal jam, cardamom and countless other embellishments….

The art of assembling a paan and the endless variation are great fun.

Here’s a paan seller’s station in Lucknow.  I wasn’t too snobby too enjoy the candied cherries.