Found at nearly every street corner in India, paan regularly consists of a mixture of spices, mukhwas, dried fruits, and sugar wrapped inside a betel leaf. According to Ayurvedic medicine, paan can cure a variety of ailments, including coughs, colds and headaches, but it is also used a breath freshener and a virility booster. Fire paan is basically a regular paan that just happens to be on fire when it goes into your mouth.
Pradhuman Shukla’s family has owned a street food stall in Delhi, India, for over 20 years, but he’s managed to take the business to a whole new level after he started selling fire paan. People can’t get enough of it, and he’s recently been featured in a Barcroft TV video that’s currently doing the rounds online. The 31-year-old entrepreneur says that about a year ago a former employee came up with the idea of setting the paan on fire before serving it to customers, and they’ve been doing it ever since.
“I once had a customer who used to come here daily. He always had a sore throat and would tell me: ‘Make me paan. I have mouth ulcers.’ I would make him paan daily and every time he would say: ‘I didn’t cure,’” Pradhuman told Barcroft TV. “Then one day a guy who used to work here burnt the paan and gave the paan to the customer. That day he said, ‘Yes, my ulcers have cured’. Two men were standing near him and when they saw the fire paan they said: ‘What is this? This is a new concept. Make one for us too.’”
People have been standing in line at Pradhuman’s food stall to have fiery paan shoved into their mouths ever since. And while some are a bit reluctant to try it at first, after seeing others eat it, they usually succumb to their curiosity.
“We know it’s a bit risky but people are enjoying it. I started with just one paan but now we make around 100 daily,” Pradhuman says. “People get scared when they see it for the first time. But all of them try it once. It doesn’t have any side effects. Its like a normal paan. I know how it works. I have tried it before. It’s safe and won’t cause injury to anyone.”
But while Pradhuman Shukla’s food stall is receiving credit for inventing the fire paan, another street food vendor in Rajkot, Gujarat, claims he developed the recipe for the unusual snack. 48-year-old Chunni Lal has been serving paan for over 30 years, and, due to the growing competition in his city, he spent 8 years coming up with a new type of paan. He and his brother were inspired to create the fire paan after being served flaming shots of alcohol t a bar.