Monday, 10 July 2017

Betel Nut, Mustard and Lime

One of the peculiarities of Papua New Guinea is that it’s rather a common thing to see folks chewing buai (betel nut) to pass the time. Back in the Philippines, I’ve known some people who are fond of chewing buai but over the years, the number of my countrymen engaged to this habit had dwindled down. The decline can probably be traced back to the diminishing source of betel nuts and the rise of street foods everywhere.

Remind me to bring home betel nut seeds when I go for holiday so I can marginally contribute to the revival of what was once a favorite pastime of our predecessors.

With permission from these two gentlemen, they let me take a photo of them as they show me the most preferred way to chew daka, which is a bean-like green called mustard.  The small jar the left man was holding had a whitish powder in it which they called kamang or lime. 

The kamang is what’s responsible for turning the mixture of chewed buai and daka in their mouth to red. 


So basically, the whole idea about chewing betel nut encompasses a small jar of lime, a beetle nut with its skin peeled off, and a stick of mustard. I believe there is a certain technique to learn when it comes to trying these the first time; like making sure not to put the lime directly on the gums to avoid having an unpleasant burning sensation.

Certain habits have their dangers. So I’m told.


Our friend Nessy here is gladly showing us what kind of reaction takes place when the mixture of  juices from betel nut and mustard blend in with lime and saliva. The reddish part stain on his teeth is just  the normal chemical reaction.

One important thing to remember when chewing buai is that one needs to spit out the fibrous residue as often as needed. If you happen to have imbibed the juices, you can get mildly euphoric or mildly high. The locals will then refer to you along with the current stimulated effect you’re feeling as, spak man long buai (spark). 

Have a nice week everyone!

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