What better way to end a heavy meal than with a Meetha Paan?
A Paan is a betel leaf stuffed with a number of things depending on which version you like. The primary ingredients however are gulkand (a jam made up of rose petals and sugar), chuna (lime paste) and katha (catechu). Other things that are added include saunf, desiccated coconut, tutty fruity, some cardamom and clove. Supari (areca nut) is another key ingredient. However, I generally avoid the supari.
The gulkand is the main ingredient of a meetha paan. This is what gives it its sweet flavor. The Charak stores in Mumbai have really good gulkand. It is supposed to be very good for health too. Of course, that's not the reason we eat the paan!
There are three types of Betel leaves that can be used - the Kalkatta, the Banarasi, the Maggai. The Kalkatta is the most sought after. The Banarasi was of course, made very famous by Amitabh Bachchan in the movie Don with the song "Khaike paan Banaraswaala"! Depending on the stuffing inside a paan, it is called a Sada, Meetha, Rampyari, Tambaku etc. So, you have the various combinations - Kalkatta Meetha, Banarasi Rampyari etc.
There are tons of people in India and other countries who swear by their paan. They absolutely have to have their particular variety after every meal. For me, it is not a habit but something I indulge in once in a while. A treat.
A paan should be had freshly made. Nowadays, many paan shops make the paan and store it in the refrigerator. This robs the paan of its unique natural flavors.
In Hyderabad, there are many places that make great paans. My favorite is the paan shop near the Nehru statue close to the Ramakrishna cinemas. I don't even know the name. Paan shops usually have no name! These guys make the paan fresh. They use great gulkand and it is not cloyingly sweet.
In Mumbai, there is a very famous paan shop called Muchchad's paan shop. The name comes from the owner of the shop who sports a huge mustache! His paan is so famous that he has a website for his paan shop. You can place orders for paan online. The prices are in dollars. Delivery is only in Mumbai! Now, that's a first!