Whether it’s one of those after meals sweet cravings or an add-on to the traditional Indian meals, Paan always ratchets up the moment. With as many as 40 different dishes of this magical leaf, one cannot remain untouched by the sweet, palatable and conducive alternative that paan leaves provide.
From paan-flavoured ladoos to the ever-delicious paan ice-cream, our hero has come a long way. To the times, when it was considered an elders treat to the time where even kids love to get hold of meetha paan, the mysteriously sumptuous item has never failed to impress us with it’s uncanny charm.
What is more to this humble friend is the fact that it has made its place even among the tiniest and smallest of settlements and has imparted the luscious taste in the highs and lows of human habitat!
Backpedaling In Time!
The word ‘Paan’ has come from the Sanskrit word “Parna”, the meaning of which is “Leaf”. Betel leaf has a rich history which dates as far back as 5000 years, its origin being India.
A significant part of Indian food culture, it also travelled to the Pacific countries. Over the years, different varieties of paan began gaining popularity and captured the hearts of millions across the country.
Today, the charm of paan knows no bounds with its taste traversing the geographical boundaries like never before!
Betel leaves and its savoury taste is well-known but do you know some of the interesting facts that surround our hero?
Well, let’s have a look:-
- Paan leaves are also known as Green Gold.
- They are usually 7-15 cm in length and 5-11 cm in width.
- The leaves have a sharp, tangy, and peppery taste to it.
- There are 32 varieties of betel leaves that are grown in India and Bangladesh.
- Betel leaves are a good source of calcium.
- It was used as a mouth- freshener for the royalty.
- Paan leaves can stay intact upto 3 days if kept unwashed and stored in a plastic bag.
And if you’d ask me, this list would go on and on with limitless interesting facts but for now, allow me to take you through other aspects of this leafy friend.
Betel Leaf And Different Dishes!
Known for their peppery taste, betel leaves are used in a variety of dishes that are a complete win-win for all occasions.
Well, listed below are some of the most delicious items made out of them that you should be knowing to steal the show:-
- Meetha Paan
One of the most common yet extremely exotic dishes is none other than meetha paan. Be it your after-meal meetha session or the tempting billing box at the restaurant where you don’t mind paying when you get hold of those luscious batch of paan, this item never fails to impress.
So, why not make them at home?
So, you’d be needing betel leaves, chuna, paan chutney, gulkand, tooti frooti, fennel seeds, cardamom and cherry for the recipe.
Begin by washing the betel leaf and wiping them carefully. Ensure that the stem is cut. Put very little chuna on the back side of the leaf and apply paan chutney on top of it. Add gulkand along with tooti frooti, cardamom and fennel seeds. Wrap it up and close it with a toothpick. Top it with cherry.
- Paan Coconut Ladoo
This instant ladoo will definitely blow your mind and leave you craving for more. The recipe uses betel leaves, desiccated coconut, gulkand, nuts, condensed ,milk, food colour( ideally green-coloured) and ghee.
Begin by putting chopped nuts to the gulkand mixture, mix them well and keep aside. Now, take a blender and add already chopped betel leaves, food colour, condensed milk and some water.
Once done, take out the mixture in a bowl and add the desiccated coconut. Mix everything well. Grease your palms with some ghee, make round shapes, flatten them and fill them with gulkand and seal the edges by bringing them together.
Finally, roll the ladoos in the leftover desiccated coconut and cover them with the mixture.
And your delicious Paan Coconut Ladoos are ready!
- Paan Ice-Cream
Who doesn’t love ice-cream?
But what if they come in an altogether new avatar, offering you a paan with ice-cream flavour filled in it?
Well, it tastes yummy too!
For making this dish, you’d require betel leaves, ½ cup milk, sugar, 2-3 tbsp khoya, fennel seeds, gulkand, cardamom, and 1 meetha paan.
In a blender, add gulkand, paan leaves, fennel seeds, cardamom powder and meetha paan and make a smooth paste. Now, add this paste to the milk and mix well.
Transfer the ingredients in a mould and freeze it overnight.
Serve it the next day!
- Chocolate Paan
This variation of paan is simply yummy and definitely delicious. For making this exotic paan you need to have paan leaves, mukhwas, hazelnut spread, tutti frutti, gulkand, cherry, coconut powder and chocolate chips.
Begin by removing the leaf’s stalk and preparing the betel leaf. Now over it, add the hazelnut spread along with tutti frutti, desiccated coconut powder, chocolate chip and mukhwas. At the end, top it with a cherry and a tsp of gulkand.
Now, fold over the pan and seal it with a toothpick. Melt the chocolate using a double boiling method or in a microwave. Once done, dip a side of the paan in the melted chocolate and keep on rotating so that it gets coated on all sides.
Let the chocolate harden and then serve the paan as a mouth freshener!
- Banarasi Paan
This is one of the most cherished and savoured paan across the country and has been in use as a symbol of greeting in Banaras. For making this paan, you’d need betel leaves and a mixture of gulkand, menthol and camphor powder, fennel seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg powder, dry coconut, betel nut silvers, tutti frutti and ½ tsp slaked lime.
Begin by washing the betel leaves nicely. Once done, wipe them and apply slaked lime. Keep them aside. Now, take two more leaves and place them over each other and to it add the already prepared mixture. Fold it into a triangular shape and close it with a toothpick.
And your delicious Banarasi paan is ready for serving!
- Paan Chaat
Paan chaat is a unique and delicious variation of paan items that is always a win-win. To make this dish, you need to have paan leaves, ½ cup besan, 1 potato, cucumber, onion and tomato chopped, ½ cup green and sweet chutney, curd, red chilli and black pepper powder, chaat masala, roasted cumin powder, pomegranate and sev, salt, coriander leaves and oil.
Wash the betel leaves and keep them aside. Simultaneously, prepare a thick batter of gram flour and water along with salt. Now, heat some oil in the pan, spread the batter on the leaves and fry them one by one.
Add all the chopped veggies over the leaves along with both the chutneys and curd. Add a pinch of salt and other masala on top of it. Finally, garnish the leaves with chopped coriander leaves, sev and pomegranate.
Your delectable Paan ki chaat is ready in no time!
To be honest, there are endless varieties of paan dishes that are outrightly delicious and heavenly but to begin with, put on your mittens and begin with these simple recipes mentioned above!
The Health Benefits!
The delicious paan treat that no one can forgo and none can ignore has a lot of health benefits, so much so that it is given a high place among the Ayurveda practitioners.
So, let’s take a glance over their benefits:-
- Paan leaves possess carminative, intestinal and anti-flatulent properties that protect the gut. They help the intestines to absorb vital nutrients that improve digestion. They also contain antioxidants that clears radicals from the body, which in turns helps in better bowel movements and reduces the problem of constipation.
- Studies have shown that betel leaves have great antiseptic and anti-fungal properties as they are a storehouse of polyphenols that protects the body from germs.
- If you’re down with cough and flu and don't know how to deal with it, then trust me you’re sorted if you get hold of betel leaves. This is because they help in treating breathing issues and other respiratory problems. They are also considered an excellent cure for chest and lung congestion as well as asthma.
- Problems like bad breath, cavity, plaque and tooth decay can be kept at bay if one includes betel leaves in their diet. This is because they are rich in antimicrobial agents that fight off bacteria living inside the oral cavity.
- As per different studies, betel leaves are said to have anti- inflammatory properties that relieves joint pain and other discomfort, commonly related to chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
- It is said that chewing betel leaf reduces the chances of Oral cancer as it helps in maintaining ascorbic acid levels in the saliva. It also prevents certain substances in the body that lead to cancer.
- Betel leaves are a rich source of calcium and other vitamins like carotene, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine as well as Vitamin C. All this leads to better curative and healing benefits.
- It also has anti-diabetic properties and helps in the prevention of high blood pressure and cholesterol in the body. That’s why it is greatly recommended in the Ayurvedic texts.
Thus, the benefits of a generally overlooked and underrated betel leaf is so many that if taken notice of, can surely help you live a healthy life, free from diseases!
A token of love and hospitality, Paan has indeed come a long way. From the times of Raja-Maharajas to seizing every lane of the cities, the unsung hero has indubitably made its mark and graced each and every occasion with its great taste and alluring texture across all timelines.