Restaurants & Bars 20

Paanwala?

Melanie Wong | Nov 21, 2003 12:02 AM

We had tried to arrange for some paan as a digestive to cap last night's dinner at Darbar but were unsuccessful in finding any. Does anyone know of a local paanwala?

Don't know what paan is? Here's Shreesh's description.

----Original Message-----
From: Shreesh
Sent: Thu, 13 Nov 2003 22:50:55 -0800
To:
Subject: Paan

Paan is one of those Indian cultural things that do not translate well.
A paanwala is a cultural institution unto himself (and always male -
never seen a female paanwala) carefully nurtured and jealously guarded.
Most people have a 'favorite' paanwala and take great pleasure in taking
their dinner guests to him after an evening walk. One NEVER disses a
family paanwala; no matter how bad he is - doing so can end a
friendship.

The Paan itself is a curious thing - the word translates to 'leaf', of
which there are at least two varieties. The paanwala has maybe a half
dozen shiny and mysterious tins and dips into them in a seemingly random
fashion to fulfill a Paan order. Making the Paan requires intense
concentration and the previously gregarious and friendly paanwala
assumes a detached air similar to a Symphony Maestro during the process
at the end of which he presents the Paan with a flourish.

One can order two general kinds of Paan - 'Zarda' or 'Meetha', the
former is my favorite and contains saffron & masala infused tobacco.
Other ingredients from the enigmatic tins include betel nut, candied
cardamom, rose petal jam, and - lime??! My relatives sweat the latter
it is in there but I think it's toxic. The tobacco Paan generates a most
satisfying bright orange spit and stains your mouth.

The flavor can either be heaven sent or can make you choke. A foodie
friend of mine has described it as 'the worst thing I have ever put in
my mouth'. I have used Paan as a descriptor in my wine tasting notes
most prominently featured in the Premier Crus and Grand Crus of Vosne
Romanee. I have detected it to a lesser degree in the Pinots of
Gevrey-Chambertin and Morey St. Denis. To me a burgundy cannot be
considered 'Great' unless it has Paan and we flit from Burgundy tasting
to tasting looking for it. It is rare.

So there you have it. I think everyone should try it if they have not.
It is almost guaranteed to be a bad experience some but one should take
a chance on it - it could just blow you away. Sound like Burgundy?

Shreesh

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