This small, leafy triangular bag-of-spices were once widely consumed or chewed, especially amongst the Indians, back in the old days. 𝗣𝗮𝗮𝗻 (𝗮𝗹𝘀𝗼 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗮𝘀 𝗣𝗮𝗻𝗻 𝗼𝗿 '𝗯𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗮' 𝗶𝗻 𝗧𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗹) 𝗶𝘀 𝗰𝗵𝗲𝘄𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝘀𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗯𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗶𝘀 𝘀𝗮𝗶𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝗲 𝗮 𝗴𝗼𝗼𝗱 𝗹𝗮𝘅𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲. Back then, it was not uncommon to see people chewing and spitting it out.
However, like many other traditions, 𝒑𝒂𝒂𝒏 has become so rare that even some Indians have not heard of it (true story!).
Deep in Penang's Little India, there's only 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐩𝐚𝐚𝐧 𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐫 left in the state. Mr Ali Khan sells two types of 𝒑𝒂𝒂𝒏 , which are 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐞 (consumable) or 𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐰𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞. "𝐈𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐰𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞, 𝐈 𝐰𝐨𝐧'𝐭 𝐩𝐮𝐭 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐛𝐞 𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐧. 𝐈𝐭'𝐬 𝐛𝐚𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐭," 𝐬𝐚𝐢𝐝 𝐀𝐥𝐢.
Not knowing how to spit (and amidst the pandemic), we ordered the consumable 𝒑𝒂𝒂𝒏 instead. Like a 𝐩𝐚𝐚𝐧-𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫, Ali prepared the after-meal treat in front of us, putting fennel seeds, ginger flakes, dates, cherry, gambir paste, betel nut, nutmeg, and honey onto a betel leaf. He then folds it into a triangle and secures it with a clove.
𝐎𝐮𝐫 𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐭: 𝑨 𝑴𝒖𝒔𝒕 𝑬𝒙𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒏𝒄𝒆!
Editor's Note: There are two restaurants selling 𝒑𝒂𝒂𝒏 too, but unlike Ali Khan, the 𝒑𝒂𝒂𝒏 is not prepared in front of you. 𝐖𝐚𝐭𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐀𝐥𝐢 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐚𝐧 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐞𝐥𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐬𝐨 𝐰𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐩 𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝.
Location: Next to Ali Bubur Kacang at 52 Lebuh Pasar, George Town, Penang