Paan—digestive, breath freshener,mild stimulant, producer of copius red saliva—is ubiquitous in Jackson Heights. There are many small kiosks where men fold up various spices, betel nuts, sometimes even tobacco in green leaves. My favorite is Shahi Paan, which claims to be the best in New York. I like it because the paan walla has 10 varieties on offer, even though I always get the Banaras Special Paan ($2). It is packed with spices, including cardamom and anise, and just a bit of betel. It is also the size of a football and will cause you send streams of red spittle into the street. If that’s not your thing—and it’s often not mine—grab a sweet paan ($1.25). Packed with coconut,rose jam, and candied anise seeds, among other things, it’s dessert and digestive in one.
Shahi Paan, 73-19A 37th Rd Jackson Heights, NY 11372