Before heading to Mombasa, I read that we should try paan, an Indian…. well, actually, I don’t know what the hell it is. <—-But here’s a picture.
I know it involves shredded betel nut, red dye, spices, and honey. Plus, I think there are some of those candy coated anise seeds that remind me of Good and Plentys in there. Anyway, that’s paan, and we needed to try it.
So we went to a paan shop, where we able to request the sweet paan (as opposed to savory, maybe?). After dumping all these ingredients onto the leaf, the paan-making man wrapped it up in a tidy triangle-shaped bundle and we were off.
We wandered around Mombasa for a little bit before getting up the courage to try our paan, mostly because paan is not something you eat, it’s something you chew and spit. We didn’t want to get in trouble for spitting red vegetable matter on the streets of Mombasa. Plus, paan supposedly makes you produce a lot of extra saliva, and we didn’t want to drool red vegetable matter on ourselves in a public area. But eventually we got up the nerve to try it.
There, we tried it. My husband described it as a “carnival of flavors!” I was a bit less positive. We chewed, we spit, we chewed more and spit more and eventually we spit it all out and spent a solid hour trying to get the leftover bits of root and leaf out from between our teeth. Good times.
I’m still not quite sure what paan is… a drug? a breath freshener? a digestive aid? Just like my train ride on The Lunatic Express, it’s something that I’m glad I tried, but which I will never try again.