Ever had paan without...paan ka patta?
“Khayee ke paan Banaras wala...” when legendary actor Amitabh Bachhan immortalised the betel leaf preparation of the ancient city of Banaras in the year 1978 with his film Don, most of us grew up to believe that it had to be the best variant of paan there is, and inarguably one of the most sought-after items to look forward to in Uttar Pradesh. If experts are to be believed, the fabled Banarasi Paan could be more than 2500 years old. Even though betel leaves are not native to Banaras, but the way the Banarasis developed their paan, with range of exotic smears, nuts, candies and dry fruits, the desi mouth freshener, became synonymous to the city. But even beyond Banaras, there lies a world of Paans waiting to be explored and relished.
Malai Paan: Paan Without Paan Ka Patta?
About 300 kilometres from Varanasi, the city of Lucknow beams in their Nawabi legacy. Foodies map the city with their favourite addas to bond over with a plate of fresh kababs and parathas. The languorous pace of Lucknow is infectious, but equally delightful are the bustling pockets of energy, especially in market places, that are again, incomplete without an array of street food vendors and paanwalahs. Lucknow, has its own variant of paan, that does not even look like your typical paan. Called Malai ka Paan or Malai ki Gilori, this melt-in-mouth ‘paan’ does not even make use of betel leaf (also called ‘paan’ or ‘paan ka patta’ in Hindi) or supari. That’s right, it is made of malai, the creamy skin that is formed on top of boiled milk.
How Is Malai Ka Paan Made
To make this paan, milk is boiled for about two hours in a kadhai. Once it is boiled nicely, it is taken off from the heat. From the furnace, a few lumps of flaming coals are pulled out on which a flat pan-like vessel is rested. This pan has very less depth. The milk that was boiled is then collected in an aluminium mug-like vessel and then poured back to the same kadhai from a height. This process is carried out 2-3 times that gives milk a frothy, creamy texture. After this the milk is then poured to the flat pan, where it forms a very thin, almost crepe-like layer, due to its consistency. On this flat pan, the milk is allowed for cook for 2 hours more on low heat, which ensures the ‘malai’ that comes out is thick and pliable. Once the thick and creamy malai is set, it is cut using a knife. The Malai is further cut into small squares, two three such layers are combined and filled with crushed pistachios, cashews and almonds and folded together in the shape of a paan. And just like a typical paan, it is supposed to be eaten in one go.
Malai ka Paan is one of Lucknow’s most well-kept culinary secrets and it is being served for more than 200 years. This creamy, nutty, sweet delicacy has indulgence written all over it and we didn’t expect anything less.