For centuries, in India, people have been using Paan (tambul) as a mouth freshener. It is prepared by combining the betel leaf with areca nut, katha (Acacia catechu), chuna (lime) and sometimes also with tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant and psychoactive effects. Apart from India, it is used in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ceylon, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Nepal and Taiwan.
Many countries in Persian Gulf, where large number of Asians live have banned it as people, after chewing betel nuts spit on walls and floors and it is an eyesore.
According to traditional Ayurveda chewing paan is a good remedy against bad breath but it can possibly lead to oral cancer.
Although many people serving paan have introduced things like chocolate paan etc, the Benarasi sada paan often served with silver foil is famous all over the world as the ingredients are mixed in a special way to create a magical taste, which you’ll cherish forever.
Ingredients in every paan are same, but it is the process of making a Banarasi paan that makes it special. The creativity of the paan makers and their style of serving add to the taste. First the leaves are properly cleaned and Betel nuts are cut using wet cloth and later dipped in water to remove its astringency.
Catechu or Kathaa is soaked in water for some days, then it is boiled and transferred to a utensil. After that it is tied in a thick cloth and placed under a heavy rock to remove its astringency. The catechu then settles down and becomes bright in colour, this is then churned and turned into a paste. This handmade catechu is the speciality of Benarasi paan.
Keshav Tambul Paan Bhandar of Banaras leads the brigade of paan sellers from the forefront. This humble pan shop has a fair bit of history to boast of. It was first established in the 1700s when Ahilyabai laid the foundation of the Kashi Vishwanath temple. They have 2 shops in Banaras which draw both locals and tourists in equal number.
If you like paan no way you are going to Varanasi and coming back without visiting this very important landmark of the city.