I've had a liking for meetha paan - sweet paan - ever since my first stint in Delhi more than twenty years ago. And here in Chennai, Manoj at the local street corner paan stall makes a neat meetha paan.
I pop by most days. I guess I've become a regular. As soon as he sees my face, Manoj sets to work.
What's in it? Well it's a betel leaf smeared with lime paste, and with a concoction of delicacies - some sweet and sticky, others with a bit of a punch - which add up to a mouth-filling cocktail of flavours.
There's an online recipe here - but I suspect Manoj's are, if not quite as fancy, then more authentic, and his certainly have more ingredients.
The paan stall is tiny, but serves as both meeting place and roadside store. Manoj sells cigarettes (one-at-a-time, if need be), various types of paan, including the sachet kind, sweets, pens, all sorts of stuff. And business is brisk.
My meetha paan costs me 25 rupees a go (not bad considering I was shelling out 10 rupees back in the '90s). And then of course, you have to eat it ...
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