"‘...I chew betel-nut and expectorate in the direction of a cheap brassy bowl...’"


Paan Making
Public DomainPaan Making - Credit: Siqbal

In South-East Asia Paan is the popular tradition of chewing the leaves of the Betel vine wrapped around the areca nut, commonly referred to as betel-nut or betel-quid. It can be made sweet with fruit preserves, often called Meetha, or sour, made with tobacco. In India, paan has been an important part of customs for hundreds of years, where it was originally offered in the courts of the Mogul kings as part of hospitality and friendship.


The betel nut is chewed as an antiseptic and a breath-freshener, but also frequently as a stimulant. The areca nut stimulates saliva and stains the mouth and the saliva red. Because of this excess saliva produced paan chewers continually spit saliva and paan remnants, traditionally into spittoons although frequently you can see local pavements and buildings in India stained red as a result of spitting paan into the street.