Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Liquid pan

Paan in a glass or a paanshake 

Liquid paan, paan milkshake, paan in shot glasses, paan, Indian milkshake, Food photography, Simi Jois photography

I love the gooey honey clad gulkand wrapped up in betel leaf along with everything else that goes into it. 

Before I was married, I had never tasted paan. It was not something my dad would eat or let us eat. Since we had never tasted it, we did not miss much. Back then, I did not think too highly of paan eaters, probably because by the chauraha (where four streets meet) of our house, we had a paan shop and I would always see loafers standing there, chewing paan and spitting it by the road side. I never really liked the red color it bestowed. North Indian weddings always had a paan counter, my mother would always like to take a spoon of saunf ( fennel seeds), me too. That’s all my tastebuds knew about Indian after mint. 

I think it was sometime after our engagement, my better half asked me if I wanted to eat meetha (sweet) paan after dinner. My response was a no with a hint of displeasure. That did not deter him or maybe he did not take the hint. He order a metha paan and I did take a bite which changed my entire outlook of this poor little harmless betel pocket. I was then told there are several kinds of pan and not all pans are equal.  The one that we usually order is almost like a dessert, with gulkand and some after mint and wrapped in tender betel leaves. 

Gulkand is rose petal jam made from a combination of honey and sugar. It’s aromatic and extremely delicious. 

Liquid paan, paan milkshake, paan in shot glasses, paan, Indian milkshake, Food photography, Simi Jois photography

There are basically three types of pan leaves. 

  1. Kalkatta - A dark green colored leaf. 
  2. Banarasi - A light green colored leaf
  3. Maghai - A leaf available in both shades of green but having smaller leaves than the above two varieties.

Sada Paan - It is the simplest type of paan. Most of the time areca nut, catechu paste and slaked lime paste is added to the betel leaf. Menthol powder, cardamom or clove can be added if the customer so prefers.

Meetha Paan - It is a sweet paan with along with the above some spices like fennel seeds, cinnamon powder etc, gulkand, tutty fruity etc being also added. You can ask without catechu (katha). 

Tambakhu Paan - It is a sada pan to which tobacco leaf powder is added. 

Trento/olerno paan - It is a mint flavored paan.

More recently you have chocolate, strawberry and other milder and fruity flavors of paan. 

The heart shaped leaves have a deeper significance. No hindu  traditional ceremony is complete without betel leaves and betel nut. It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi is present in the place the leaf connects to the steam, Goddess Saraswati in the middle, Parvati Devi is present on the left side, Bhudevi or Mother Earth on the right side, Lord Vishnu on the inside and Lord Shiva on the outside, Lord Indra at the tip and Surya the Sun God on the entire leaf and Kamdev the God of love resides on the outer portion of the leaf. 

It is also believed that the leaf is a symbol of Goddess Lakshmi and the betel nut Lord Ganesha. The betel leaf, betel nut and catechu signify the holy trinity - Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. No auspicious ceremony is started without invoking the trinity.

Apart from the culinary and spiritual aspect, paan is mentioned in the Ayurveda as a cure for metabolic functions, reducing inflammation, expelling mucus, and as a aphrodisiacs. 

The romantic element of paan dates back to the Mughals and beyond. Mughal Queen Noorjaaah was famous for using paan for it’s cosmetic value. Bollywood elevated it to the next level be it Amir in PK or Amitabh singing, “Khaike paan banaras wall…” Paan has played the lead role in many blockbusters.

Banarasi and Culcatta paan are famous as delicacy, once you put the heart shaped leaves in your mouth, They will find a place in your heart. It did not take time for me to convert myself from a paan snob to a die hard paan fan. Here is something for you guys to chew on…..

Liquid paan, paan milkshake, paan in shot glasses, paan, Indian milkshake, Food photography, Simi Jois photography

Here is what some of my friends have to say about paan….

Dolphia : "Paan is very popular in West Bengal. After any large and scrumptious meal, having paan as digestive aid is much common. My granny has few paan-s every day and her paan is very much simple and mostly with sweet beetle leaves, lime-stone spread (choona) areca nuts, feenel seeds, paan masala (store bought or homemade), and catechu. She has a special container where she makes and stores pan for the entire day. She also has a portable paan case where she carries it when she is travelling. Ma is an occassional paan eater and she only eats on special days and mostly store-bought but always with sweet betel leaves. Matthew had his first paan at our wedding and believe it or not, he enjoyed it a lot.

Prerna Singh My grandmum had this small box made of silver which we could call pandan. She’d fill that box with supari (betel nut), gulkand (rose petal jam), choona, katha and several other fix-ins and Pan. Green, heart shaped betel leaves, fresh and so crisp would make a crackling sound when put into the mouth. Other than special occasions, a little peek was all us kids got of her pan dan. But a fresh beeda wrapped by dadi herself, was a must when guest would visit. In the parts of north India where I grew up, not offering a cup of freshly brewed chai and a pan (meetha or with tobacco) to guests was considered disrespectful at that time. That is one of my favorite memories of my dadi and her pan. And its funny that my daughter who was born and is being brought up in the US, miles away from those traditions but she’s a huge fan of pan too. I guess some things are in your blood just like the love for pan in ours!

Shiyam Sundar : I'm from Tamil Nadu so our pan is call Vetrillai. Betel Nut leaf is cleaned and the center nerver is removed, chunnambu ( rose scented calcium is applied and finely shaved betel nut (seeval) or paaku is placed. Folded and kept in the mouth and enjoyed slowly. Kotta paku id split betel nut and that is pounded and also placed in the betel nut.

The container in which these are kept is a treasured piece, they comes in ornate designs. It is called 'Chella petti' pyara petti (closestes that i can translate in Hindi. It is a grand finale to all meals as it is a digestive and the ‘thuvarpu’ (closest taste descriptor in english will be sour) from the betel nut induces sleep.

Sangeeta: "The Banarasi paan is considered more than just a ritualistic offering — it is said to have properties that are aphrodisiacal, anti-depressant, digestive and anti-inflammatory. For a Banarasi paan, betel leaves from three different regions in the country are used: the Maghai patta from Bihar; the Jagannathi patta from odisha; and the desi patta from the eastern swathe of Uttar Pradesh.
the pale-coloured Maghai patta, which is grown in winters, is a seasonal delicacy. the paan traders, who largely come from the Chaurasiya community, are pros in the art of maturing the Maghai patta. the leaves are stored in woven bamboo baskets in a room heated by coal ambers for a few days for that melt-in-the-mouth quality. Every ingredient used to make the Maghai and Jagannathi patta paan comes from different parts of India: while gulkand used in meetha (sweet) paan is brought from ajmer, the betel nut is from assam. a silver paandaan, a storage box shaped like a treasure chest, was once considered a prized possession; decorative brass nut cutters to slice areca nuts
were works of art.” From an article written by Sangeeta for the Magazine Eat Stay love. 

Preeti Deo : "Traditionally after every meal in a Marathi household, it is a ritual to chew paan with betelnut or to eat taambul. This causes the saliva glands to activate and along with the leaf extracts help in oral hygiene as well as aid digestion.
Tambul vilas is relished on festive occasions after a heavy meal. This vida has masala supari, dry coconut, cardamom, nutmeg etc. Masala supari is a mix of betelnuts, jyeshthamadh, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, sugar, cloves, cinnamon etc. Tambul is a mix of betelnut leaves with other ingredients I have mentioned in the photo. Traditional trayodashguni vida comprises of betelnuts, white catechu, cloves, nutmeg, edible camphor, saffron, grated dry coconut, jaypatri, cardamom, almonds, kasturi and chuna. At times , pipli or even dry ginger is added. Vida are presented in many different forms. To make these look attractive the leaves are used just like a craft paper and folded in different forms. The different names known so far are Govind vida, khanaachi patti(typically the way blouse piece is folded), pudicha vida, varkhacha vida( with edible silver on it), some vida are folded artistically into butterflies, locks, boats or even chandeliers!! Traditionally vida is served in Paanacha tabak/dabba.

And here is a bonus treat, thank you Anuja for the video on how paan is made and the history of paan.

Since I had a lot of betel leaves from a recent function at my place,  I wanted to try making a paan punch or paan shots. And a couple of tries later I came up with this liquid paan or paan milk shake. 

I just loved this drink and I finally diluted it with lots of milk as the original I made was served in tiny shot glasses. I thought that was a bit strong for my taste buds.

4-5 fresh paan leaves
1/4 cup almonds and pistachios 
1/4 tsp cardamom
5-6 strands saffron
1 tsp sauf/fennel seed powder ( use a dry grinder to grind it)
5-6tbsp kulkand
5 cups milk 
1 cup full cream 

Soak the pistachio and almonds for 3-4 hours, separately. Remove the almond skin and grind them into very fine paste.  Add the gulkand and grind again, till they form a nice smooth paste. 

In the US you can get pan leaves at any Indian grocery store. Take the paan leaves and grind them in 2-3tsp water and strain from very fine sieve or muslin cloth. 

If you do not have fresh paan you can use dehydrated paan or ready frozen paan.  Make sure it is fresh and not stale. 

Mix the milk, cream, almond paste, paan leaf juice, cardamom powder (elachi) and fennel seed (sauf) powder.

Now when you mix the beetle leaf juice, do not mix all at once try a little bit at a time, till you are comfortable with the flavor. If you add too much, it might get bitter. 

Served chilled, along with an Indian meal.

Make a stronger version and serve it in shot glass along with dessert after a meal. 
Liquid paan, paan milkshake, paan in shot glasses, paan, Indian milkshake, Food photography, Simi Jois photography
Liquid paan, paan milkshake, paan in shot glasses, paan, Indian milkshake, Food photography, Simi Jois photography

The betel nut and paan are stored in a very ornate box- paan dana, unfortunately I do not have any, my friend Dolphia sent me a picture of a simple betel nut box she got from India.

Pan Box - image curtesy Dolphia
Liquid paan, paan milkshake, paan in shot glasses, paan, Indian milkshake, Food photography, Simi Jois photography
Edit: I have removed a few images from this post because they have been the cause of unnecessary frustration for one of my fellow members in this community. Even though I have tried to understand why, I have worked very hard on those pictures and don’t agree with it in principle, I have made the decision to save myself unwanted mental distress and heartburn. I don’t want to forget that I am in this only because I love the art form, and nothing else.  Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Thank you, Simi!! It's a pleasure to work with you. Those pan milkshakes are so gorgeous and you're one sexy model. You know what's the best about you - you come up with unique photoshoot ideas every time - not sure how you do simi!! You're unique and the best.

  2. Oh...how creative!!! Love the idea of a paan shake. Simi. It has been ages since I ate paan but this is definitely something to try!

  3. Oh wow! Paan shots, that is very interesting. I have eaten paan ice cream and I just loved it. I will treat my friends these pan shots during the dussera holidays.
    What a gorgeous post Simi!

  4. Wow! Simi Lovely post.. Love the way in which you wrote this post.. I love Pan and this version of liquid pan sounds amazing too.. I have bookmarked it...the bonus viedo is nice too

  5. My my Simi!!! Only you can think of something like Pan in a glass.. I love MEetha Pan. But I wouldn't mind drinking it from a glass. Will surely give this a try :)

  6. Loved the photography Simi....

  7. Paan was not something that was looked down by the family or by people living around, three decades back. Infact, many a times, a stroll at night would mean a walk down the lane to the local Paan shop where a dhoti and kurta clad man with a checkered pink and white napkin (Anghocha?) on his shoulders, wiping his fingertips with it, now and then, chewing tobacco and catering to the crowd, making each paan according to the whims and fancies of his customers, customizing it as per the orders being shot at him, eyeballing the various ingredients yet putting precise ingredients on the water soaked paan leaves, at times making multiple paan at one go. He knew the preferences of many of his regular visitors and on seeing me and my father, he would dole out meetha paan, with loads of gulkand, a dash of katha aplied with a metal rod or spoon (no choona), betel nut shavings, meethi supari, poona masala and something that looked like jintan golis, topped with grated coconut..I don't know what that Pan was known as, but I clearly remember the way he used to make it and the taste of it. It's been ages since I last tasted one !
    The shots looks amazing ! You are a gifted photographer :-)

  8. wow..liquid pan is something unique..though heard lots about meetha paan and all others but never tasted...now,all I feel is to have a meetha paan,beautiful pics,Simi :)

  9. I've never heard of paan before, and found this so interesting. Your photos are stunning. Truly.

  10. Liquid paan is quite innovative. I am not a big fan of paan but have tasted it many times. My aunts use to and still eat it. They have their own paan box which has all the ingredients needed to make the paan and they carry it where ever they go. Nice post and enjoyed reading it.

  11. Thanks to Radhika, I came across your site! And I am floored! Such intense photography and amazing recipes! This one especially is my favourite. I love meetha paan and always wondered why betel leaves are not used in cooking. But this milkshake is a great way to introduce that concept! Thank you! Keep cooking and blogging ❤️


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