Lucknow city serves as home to the culture and royal tradition of the Nawabs, The Nawabi culture was not only about ‘Tehzeeb’ and ‘Tameez’, but it also boasts of the dining etiquettes and the mannerism of what and how people ate. One such etiquette is offering Paan (Betel Leaf) to the guests on their arrival and also at the end of the meal, especially at social gatherings.
Not just that, the Lucknowi culture so intrinsically holds onto paan that no wedding is complete without a paan stall in it. The ‘paan culture’ is inherited from the regal courts of imperial times when paan chewing was all prevalent. There are many paan shops in Lucknow city that are proudly carrying the royal tradition forward and one of these shops is ‘Azhar Bhai Ka Pan’ in Chowk area of Purana Lucknow.
Azhar Bhai ka Paan is the most popular destination for savoring the taste of Lucknow after having a stomachful dinner. The paan here can be the perfect finish to the Lucknowi food. The shop was put up 80 years back by Khail Bhai and Bashir Bhai and now Azhar Bhai is managing the shop for about 40 years and representing the third generation in the business. He started working at the age of 12 years and now he proudly claims his shop to be the best shop for paan in the city with maximum varieties of paan.
The paan shop is famous for the interesting names and creative flavors, The different leaves used here are desi paan, disauri paan, mahauba paan and banarsi paan. Apart from these, the names of various varieties of paan present here are equally creative: Pistai paan, Badami paan, Zafrani paan, Saunfiya paan, Pethe ka paan, Aonle ka paan, Begum pasand, Wajid Ali Shah ki Shahi Gillauri, Haazme ka Paan, Seene Me Dard ka paan, Khattha Meetha paan, Shahi Meetha paan, Palang Tod paan, Gola Barud Ka Paan etc. The funny names to these paans make them even more attractive. Besides the names these paans taste like heaven. He also uses Mushq daana (rarely used by others ), Shahi Goli (old and better quality tobacco), Jahezi Dali, Desi Kattha, Desi Elaichi, Supari, Gulqand, Murabba, Karaunda etc. to give his special touch.
Offering paan is indicative of the warmth that Lucknowites extend to their guests and the gratitude that they express for the presence of the guests. Paan chewing has certain styles and mannerisms attached to it and in Lucknow, it relates to the ever so famous “Nazaakat” and “Nafaasat” of the city with Paan being prepared and offered in the typical Lakhnawi style.