Not that you can really see anything in these pictures, but yesterday Naushad and his friend took me out for a delicious meal of Pakistani food. After filling ourselves up with mutton biryani, chicken curry and beef stewed overnight, I was taken to experience the world of paan.

Paan turns out to be a leaf from a tree called the betel, stuffed with various things: a chalky white paste, a brown past made of the bark of a tree, whole kernels of cardamon and the striking betel nut, which they likened to coconut. For my palate, they added a hint of jam and shaved coconut.

You then roll up the paan into a triangle and chew it for a long time (about 15 mins). This is a bit like chewing tobacco and it turns your teeth bright red. Paan is supposed to have serious narcotic value, none of which seemed to rub off on me. But perhaps this has something to do with my hosts' polite claims that "We did not put tobacco in your one. Yours will be sweet." Sweet it was, but that didn't diminish the fact that the dried cardamon stuck in my gums for the rest of the afternoon. And I'm pretty sure my mouth didn't turn the same colour as theirs.


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