From using it in prayers and religious ceremonies to eating it in the form of a ‘paan’, betel leaves are an essential part of Indian culture. Actually, not just India, but paan is consumed and relished in many Asian countries (and sometimes in other parts of the world, such as South Americas). Obviously, tobacco is not beneficial to health, but combined with aniseed, gulkand, supari and a variety of mouth fresheners and digestives, a melt-in-the-mouth paan is just what the palate could need after a hearty and spice-laden Indian meal. It is a gastronomic experience that several parts of India are famous for. The leaf of betel used to make paan is cultivated in different parts of India. It is a cash crop in the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh. In West Bengal, two types of betel leaves are produced. These are – Bangali Patta (Country Leaf) and Mitha Patta (Sweet Leaf).
I would like to tell you that betel is an aromatic creeper, and you can easily grow it as an ornamental plant in your homes as well.
There is a lot of scientific research and evidence that is suggesting that chewing paan is good for health. One of my nutritionist friends once told me that the leaves are full of vitamins like vitamin C, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and carotene and are a great source of calcium. But it was an old family relative who chewed paan religiously after every meal who told me that doing this increases the metabolic rate of the body. So betel leaves are beneficial for people trying to lose weight. According to Ayurveda, paan reduces ‘Medha dhatu’ (body fat) and increases the metabolic rate of the body.
However, there is no mid-way with paan – you will either completely hate and detest it, or be rather fond of it. But I can bet you will love its avatar in the form of a kulfi. And it is one of the most simple dessert recipes, made with just five or six ingredients.
Here is how you can do it…
- Full cream milk – 500ml
- Fresh paanleaves – take the sweet variety – 50 gms
- Gulkand – 100 gms
- Sugar -100 gms
- Pectin – 3 gms
METHOD: Initially, take a small quantity – about 80ml of the milk and boil it with the paan leaves in a pan for about 10 minutes on a low flame. You may want to remove any thick stems or veins from the paan leaves. Blend this mixture completely in a blender and keep aside. Boil the remaining milk with sugar and cook till it becomes thick. Let it cool to room temperature. Add the gulkand, paan flavoured milk (blended earlier) and pectin into it. Stir gently till thoroughly mixed. Pour this mixture into kulfi moulds. Freeze it for at least 12 hours. Unmould. Serve on top of a paan leaf with falooda and rose/ kesar/ khus syrup.
Chef Anand Panwar is the Executive Pastry chef for Roseate Hotels & Resorts. Trained at the Delhi Institute of Hotel Management, he has whipped up culinary delights at The Grand, Aman and Dusit Devarana among others. Chef Anand enjoys the alchemy of pairing unusual ingredients to churn out sinful desserts.