In Thailand, it’s a common thing to see older women chewing betel nuts – a tradition that has been around for thousands of years. But since it’s hard to find younger people who chew betel nuts these days, this tradition will eventually die.
Betel nut chew is a mix of three main ingredients: betel nut (areca nut), betel leaf and limestone paste. These three ingredients need to be combined to provide a stimulant and psychoactive effect.
I have watched my wife’s grandmother fixing her betel nut chew many times before, but this day I decided to try it out.
Just like coconut, betel nut grows on a palm tree that can grow up to 30 meters high. My in-laws have a betel palm tree growing in their backyard, and the fruits naturally fall from the tree when they are fully ripe.
Here’s my wife’s lovely grandmother peeling the nuts.
After peeling she cut the nuts in smaller pieces.
The most common thing is to chew the nuts wrapped in a betel leaf along with limestone paste, but since grandmother can’t chew good enough, she grinds the ingredients to a powder which she sucks on. Some make a paste of the nuts and wrap it in a betel leaf and chew it like tobacco.
After putting the nuts in the grinding pipe, she put limestone paste on a betel leaf and folds it into a suitable size.
When all ingredients combined, she grinds it into a coarse powder.
As my wife does in the picture.
Ready with a dose in my palm, I took a pinch at a time and sucked on it. I also chewed the small pieces softly with my front teeth. The nut has a distinctive taste, producing lots of red saliva when chewing/sucking – which you eventually spit out. After a few minutes, I felt some kind of alertness similar to caffeine and nicotine, and after about 30 minutes I got a headache that lasted the entire day.
I had to spend the night drinking paracetamol instead of Singha beer. I’m done with betel nut.