Calcutta Paan: Tracing the flavours of India’s favourite mouth freshner


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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Chewing Paan is a cultural habit in India which has been going on since ancient times. The exact dates aren’t known but the earliest mention of the natural mouth freshener was in the ancient Indian text Kamasutra dated between 4th-2nd century CE . Even Ibn Battuta, the famous traveller to the court of Muhammad bin Tughluq in the 14th century, talks of this culinary practice, peculiar to India.

Kolkata epitomizes the Paan culture of India. In West Bengal, two types of betel leaves are produced, ‘Bangla Patta’ and ‘Mitha Patta’. The latter is more popular among the connoisseurs.

Kolkata has always been a gourmet’s paradise. When it comes to Paan the situation is no different. Kolkata can boast of some great Paan shops which, in their own right, have made it to the ‘Hall of Fame’ of Kolkata (if Kolkata has one).

If Shyamal Dutta, the owner of ‘Kalpataru Bhandar’ isn’t busy reading the newspaper then he is busy making ‘mitha paan’ for his customers. ‘Kalpataru Bhandar’ has been in the Paan business for the last 74 years without a change in ownership. The price ranges from Rs 5 for an everyday Paan to Rs 1,000 for a ‘Kalpataru’ special Paan.

Another very special place for Paan lovers in the city is Taj Mahal Paan Shop. Nestled right next to ‘Aminia’ ( which sells biriyani). Irrespective of time, the shop has Rafi numbers ozzing outof a speaker system. Reason? Because this shop can boast of having Mohammed Rafi as their loyal customer. A lunch at Aminia followed by an ‘ice paan’ from Taj Mahal is a must in every foodie’s itinerary.  

Ask anyone for Saat Tala Paan Wala shop in the bustling Bowbazar area ( which literally means 7 floors) and one won’t have any problem in locating this shop. The proprietor of this shop, Ganesh Prasad Chaurasia is a pass out from Birla High School for Boys (a very reputed institution), yet Ganesh choose to enter this 85 year old family business. The shop is famous for its Kemmam Paan.

Considered an aphrodisiac in the olden times, Paan chewing is one of the many traditions in India that stretch like an unbroken thread joining three millennia of recorded human history.