Paan Banaras Wala -The famous mouth freshner

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You must have heard that Bollywood song from the movie Don, “Khaike paan Banaras wala” yes, that is the level up to which Paan is famous in this country forVaranasi, this is its pride. If you visit to Varanasi you can not resist to have this amazing Mouth freshner.  Wanna know more about this, then you are in the right place where I am going to discuss everything about it from history to till date. So lets begin –

HISTORY OF PAAN: Chewing the mixture of areca nut and betel leaf is a tradition, custom or ritual which dates back thousands of years from India to the Pacific. Paan was much in vogue in the ancient and medieval history of India. Paneri in Northern India used to serve Paan to every home of the village. Paan was being prepared with special materials and special ingredients on special occasions. Every home then welcomes guests with Paan. Thus this was the tradition that people related Paan with prestige.

HOW PAAN IS MADE?: The banarasi paan is made almost with the same process as in other parts of the country, but ingredients process and way of serving differs which matters a lot. The Paanwalas in Banaras knows it well.

To prepare the Paan, first, they clean up the paan leaves properly. After this, they cut Betel nuts, using a wet cloth and dipped in water to remove its astringency.

The next ingredient Catechu(Kathaa), the main ingredients of Banarasi paan. After soaking in water for some days, Kathaa is again dipped in milk if its colour turns black. Then it is boiled and spread in a utensil. After that, it is tied in a thick cloth and placed under a heavy bar or rock, which helps in removing the astringency of Kathaa. To remove the remaining astringency, it is placed in hot ashes. After doing all these, Kathaa settles down and becomes bright in color. Then these clots are churned for hours until it turns into a paste. This handmade Kathaa is the specialty of Benarasi paan.

The next ingredient is Pickling lime (choona), Choona prepared with milk and curd. Fresh Choona is never used in the preparation of paan. Choona is dipped into water for two to three days so as to cool it down. It is then filtered using a cotton cloth and churned for hours. This helps in removing all ballasts and stones from the lime. The solid lime converts into a soft paste and then, milk or curd is mixed into it to extract the remaining heat.

Plain tobacco or surti is another specialty of Banarasi paan. Yellow or plain surti is used in the Banarasi paan instead of black surti. As yellow surti is acidic and harmful to health, plain surti is mostly used in Banarasi paan. Plain surti is thoroughly washed with water for hours. It is then mixed properly with barash, small cardamom, peppermint powder and rose water. Plain surti does not result in dizziness even if consumed in high quantity.

THE DEADLY COMBINATION: If you will ask for paan in Banaras you will get to see, Paanwalas takes a betel Leaf, puts some Kathaa, add some Choona, and surti, and fold it in various shapes whatever you like, at last, they serve in the Nawabi style touching the elbow of right hand with the left one. This Unique style, the combination of paan serving style, with a touch of respect adds more taste to the paan.

There are Four combination of Paan:

A) Tobacco (tambaku paan): The paan having the powdered tobacco with some spices.

B) Betel nut (paan masala or sada paan and supari): Paan bearing the mixture of the chopped betel and other spices.

C) ”Sweet” (meetha paan): The Betel leaf consists of fillings of coconut, fruit preserves, and many spices. Cherry is also included in this. There is no tobacco in this paan.

D) ”Trento” (olarno paan): This paan has the mint flavor and tastes like betel.

THE HEALTH EFFECT: Paan is generally consumed after meals, as it helps in digestion and also acts as a mouth freshener, in spite of this it reduces the blood pressure, relieves hunger, strengthens the teeth and decreases menstrual bleeding. But consuming a lot is dangerous as it can cause gum damage, tooth decay, and oral cancer.

Apart from all these, one Paan can cost you from rs.5 to rs.5000, depending on ingredients. Whatever be the occasion Paan is always suited and if it is Banarsi then not suited but already eaten. From Banaras to Delhi, from Delhi to Punjab, and from India to other countries, Banarasi Paan is loved by all and has travelled in every mouth, giving them freshness, and gathering the appreciation.