Nothing beats a little bindle of paan in one’s cheek at the end of a big Indian meal other than the expression on the face of a bewildered colleague who stuck the silver triangle in his mouth and bit down on a melange of spices and betel nuts. He asked: “What does this remind me of?”
“Old Spice men’s deodorant? A urinal cake?” I replied. The art was not getting it in one’s mouth — the bravest man in the world was the first one to eat an oyster — (many people before me have grown addicted to paan, their teeth stained red from the betel, but few outside of India have tried it) the trick for me was trying to figure out what to do with it after ten minutes.A lot of exterior walls and sidewalks around paan stalls in northern India are stained red from paan expectorations, so I assume the proper thing to do is what any good ballplayer does with a cheekload of chaw, and that’s spit. Problem is what to do inside of a nice restaurant. With no spittoons in evidence, and my Indian hosts displaying no stuffed-cheekedness, I swallowed mine down.
There are things you swallow and things you don’t. I believe I was eating a fairly sissy version of paan known as meetha paan, or “sweet paan” which is not as hardcore as some of the tobacco and masala based ones the pros swear by. Anyway, here I sit, burping perfume.
Dosas, on the other hand, are good things, especially for breakfast with a bowl of sambar. I could live on dosas, and was very fond of them when I was working in New York, sometimes eating them twice a week at the Madras Mahal on Lexington Ave. with Om Malik. These are big lentil flour pancakes wrapped in a flamboyant crunchy tube around spicy mashed potatoes.
This one, from Flickr, by late_blOOmer, is just about right:
Remember, never eat anything bigger than your head, and don’t swallow the paan.