A tradition changes colours

Chew on

The age-old paan has made a royal comeback. It is no more the teeth-staining, spittoon-requiring unhealthy thing of your grandparents’ time.

Luscious : Flavoured paans.

Many Delhi paanwallahs now make it in your favourite flavours, melt-in-the-mouth and free of tobacco. Primarily aimed at the youth, these are all sweet paans, and a big hit with girls especially.

In the old days, paan used to be a regular after-meal food tradition. People used to have it as a palate-cleanser, mouth-freshener and digestive aid. Even today, these ‘paans’ can give your mint a run for its money. More so, these modern paanwallahs go an extra mile to make sure you have your paan in the traditional way only.

A very popular paan shop is Milan’s, opposite the Odeon cinema hall, in Connaught Place (CP). Running since 1957, it now has three generations of the same family manning it. They have all possible flavours of paans — chocolate, butter-scotch, vanilla, strawberry, black-current, roohafza and goondi (chandan).

Rahul Singh, the youngest family member in the business, says, “The chocolate paan consists of chocolate pieces along with crushed ice drizzled with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. The other flavoured paans just use their respective flavour of Hershey’s syrup. They sell like crazy.”

Rahul’s father Ram Milan Singh feeds every customer the flavoured paans with his own hands. He says it is a tradition, and he would like to maintain it. If there are any flavours that you missed out on at Milan’s, the nearby Yamu’s Paan Panchayat will cover them.

They have litchi, pineapple, mango, orange, khus, kesar, anaar, tutty-fruity, cola, rose, elaichi, kewra, white grape, cocum and mint paan. These are besides the interestingly-named gungunahat, chulbulahat, jija-saali and other paans.

Obviously they are not telling you what goes into them, but assure you that they wouldn’t make your mouth go red and neither will you be required to spit anything out. The staff here is an all-girls team ably managed by the four daughters of Hari Lalwani who had no sons but a paan business to manage.

Further north is the S N Pandey Paan shop, at the New MPs market, which has even more exotic paans. Brownie, walnut, black forest, custard apple, honey with almonds, cashew, green pista, pina colada, kiwi, melon sweet, cranberry and raspberry — no, these are not pastries, but pastry-flavoured paan.

This is besides their uber-speciality — the diet ‘paan’ made of sucrose. Their beautiful golden menu card is in itself quite a treat to look at. They proudly claim that they are the official supplier to the President’s House, recently fed Barack Obama and even have a Facebook page.

They add that their shop is completely tobacco free. Other modern paan shops are the famous Prince paan shop at Greater Kailash I, M Block which serves paan chaat and the paanwallah opposite Nirula’s at Chanakyapuri. He is known to serve excellent frozen paans — that is any kind of paan deep frozen. At a maximum of Rs 30 to 40, each of these paans is a must-try.

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