My father adores these things. It was a ritual for him for the longest time to solve the Cumhuriyet Sunday crossword puzzle, with a palmier, and a cup of tea on Kınalı Island in Istanbul.

Only years later did I come to enjoy the flaky layers of dough, the varying degrees of caramelization, the crunchiness, and the noise that just fills your head and stops everything else around you once you bite into them! 

Baker Street, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu

tobacco, paan, street food tobacco, paan, street food

Paan! Who knew tobacco could do such things! 

Cured tobacco further flavored by rubbing in a plastic pocket with cardamom, cloves and areca nut; bound with katha; wrapped in betel leaves with fresh ground coconut; rested on ice prior to consumption; topped with mango and rose flavored sugar crystals. Wow! 

Here is the dictionary for some important components: 

  • Areca nut: A nut commonly consumed with tobacco and betel leaves.
  • Betel leaves: These have a peppery taste with mild camphory undertones that bring across a piny freshness. Together betel and areca nut act as a stimulant.
  • Katha: A paste extracted from a species of acacia tree with pleasantly pungent flavor. Looks a little like mud. 

Ok — I think I’ll be having one of these with or without my morning coffee every day now.