My First Indian Pan
After eating at Haldiram's, my local colleagues spotted a pan (pronounced PON) stall across the way, and asked me if I wanted to try it. I had no idea what they were talking about, but when I saw this guy wrapping some stuff up in a leaf like Taiwanese betel nut, my curiosity was piqued.
This was much more elaborate than I would have thought: it took him at least five minutes to make one of these things, as it required him to open at least ten different containers of stuff that I had no clue about, and sprinkling or spreading the substance onto the leaf. After all of that, it got wrapped up into a mouthful of a thing that you shoved into your mouth all at once, preferably keeping it to one side so that you could slowly chew and extract out the taste (this one was OK to swallow as there was no betel nut put in). Basically, this was like those sugar coated fennel seeds that are effectively used as breath mints here, but in a much bigger package.
How did it taste? It was tremendously sweet, although my colleagues told me that they intentionally gave me the sweet version as a starter, and that one can get a sour, betel nut, or even a tobacco-infused version if you so wished. After a while, the sweetness gave way to that laundry detergent taste that I sensed the other day, as well as a bit of a mentholatum-like sensation. I wouldn't mind trying out some of those other flavors though if I get a chance.