In India, to leave house without breakfast almost feels like a crime. And leaving without eating something substantial is equally frowned upon. Which perhaps explain the countless breakfast traditions of the country, one among which is ‘Jol Pan’. Common in parts of Assam and Bengal, ‘Jol Pan’ is nothing but a ritual of serving an assortment of snacks for breakfast. ‘Jol Pan’ translates to water(Jol) and betel leaf(paan), but if you hear any Bengali utter the word ‘Jol Pan’ around 9 a.m. in the morning, he or she is most definitely referring to something, slightly more satiating. Think: Luchi, ghugni, pitha, doi chire.  

What Is Served For Jol Pan?

The meal, may seem elaborate to a few, but traditionally, it is supposed to be a very basic part of the day, which perhaps explains the very basic name of the tradition- Jol Pan. Back in the day, almost every Bengali household would have betel leaves that would be folded and served to people who were visiting. The simple gesture was a mark of showing affection, care and respect.  

Serving up a mini meal for ‘Jol Pan’ seems to be linked with a similar school of thought. Food is indeed, the best way of expressing ‘love’ in Bengal. When I was visiting my cousins in Kolkata and we were headed for an excursion, my aunt begged us to have some ‘Jol Pan’ first. Breakfast was certainly on our itinerary, as we were expecting it to be a long day, but it was the size of the spread that blew our minds. On the table was some tea (obviously), rusk, luchi (a maida version of puri), aloo’r dom (Bengali style-spiced potatoes), channa dal, muri (puffed rice), doi chire (flattened rice flakes doused in curd), some leftover pithe (sweet, fried pastries) from previous evening.

Somewhere after my fourth luchi, my aunt explained me that not only is it improper for the host to let go of their guests or even a member of house without a sizeable breakfast. But it is also a good host’s duty to ensure that the ‘Jol Pan’ is balanced and full of energy-giving foods. Hence, you find a lot of carb-laden foods, it helps supply energy, and the body is able to digest food faster at that hour. Then there’s curd to cool your tummy. Sometimes veggies like peas and greens are also thrown into the mix to ensure inflow of vital nutrients.

 


The culture of ‘Jol Pan’ is equally popular in Assam. In fact, a simple recipe of curd, nuts, rice flakes ghee in jaggery is so popular during breakfast, that the dish in itself is popularly known as ‘Assamese Jolpan’. Other dishes that are served in Assamese Jolpan are pitha, Kath alu, Xandoh guri, suji etc.