BY: NADIA ZAIDI
If you’ve never tried your favourite snack on fire, you’re missing out. At least according to the owner of a paan stall in New Delhi, who has recently caught global attention for selling this Indian staple snack on fire.
And then he inserts the flaming snack into the customer’s mouth. Can you imagine having a stranger toss a flaming cheeseburger down your throat?
The Pradhuman Shukla family has been selling paan for 20 years, and just recently they have reinvented how this traditional snack is served in India. Paan is a preparation combining betel leaf with areca nut and tobacco. It is then set on fire, and thrown into the mouths of skeptical customers.
The vendor also revolutionized the traditional paan by adding ice and a popular drink called Rooh Afza, a non-alcoholic, concentrated squash.
Customers describe the sensation as warm and extremely satisfying. But the owner says that it actually has a cooling sensation because of the cloves crushed on top. Just make sure that you trust him enough to place the burning paan inside your mouth. You might not want to make any sudden movements as it’s entering you mouth.
Paan is a staple mouth freshener that is eaten any time of the day. It is stuffed with various fillings, including: candied fennel, shredded coconut, lime paste, and edible silver leaves.
After chewing the tobacco, it is either ingested or spat out. The latter is problematic because it has led to widespread pollution in public spaces. In Mumbai it has led to widespread pollution, and officials have tried to place images of Hindu Gods in areas where typical stains occur as a possible deterrent.
Paan has a history of igniting oral cancer. In 2009, a meeting at the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that chewing paan (even without tobacco) can lead to tumours in the oral cavity as well as the esophagus.
However, it is also believed that consuming paan has great medicinal effects and the ability to cure the common cold, flu and sore throat. In fact, this belief is what inspired the owner to create the fiery paan. A repeat customer would complain of a sore throat and mouth ulcers, which only went away when a fellow worker served him burnt paan.
Today, he sells up to 100 fire paans daily. Now the question is whether you are daring enough to actually eat this, let alone pay for it. Since paan is such a saturated market in India, vendors are constantly thinking of new ways to serve it and garner customers. Currently, they have the biggest edge in the market, in large part due to social media. After being featured on Barcroft TV, it exploded online – although, it’s already exploding in peoples’ mouths!