Highly characteristic of Mombasa are the Indian pan shops, often doubling as tobacconists and corner shops. Worth trying at least once, pan is a natural digestive and stimulant that encourages salivation. Its main ingredient is chopped areca palm nut, flavoured with your choice of sweet spices and other ingredients, syrup, and white lime, from a display of dishes, all wrapped in a peppery-tasting, dark-green leaf from the betel vine, known as pan in Urdu and Hindi. Including ground tobacco is another option, but best avoided by novices. Pop the triangular parcel in your mouth and munch – it tastes as exotic and unlikely as it sounds – spitting out the copious juice as you go. It is worth noting, however, that pan, with or without tobacco, has various adverse effects on health, including gum damage and tooth decay, and is known to be carcinogenic. Two of the best pan counters in town are at the Dil-Bahar Pan House and the New Chetna restaurant.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Kenya features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Saving the elephants: on the poaching frontline in Kenya

Saving the elephants: on the poaching frontline in Kenya

The African elephant is under constant threat from poachers, and numbers have fallen by one third in seven years. Joe Minihane journeyed to the Samburu reserv…

31 Jul 2017 • Joe Minihane local_activity Special feature
6 reasons to stay in Nairobi before you head off on safari

6 reasons to stay in Nairobi before you head off on safari

Most people coming into Kenya will arrive in Nairobi, but head straight for the country’s vast national parks and beautiful coastline. Stay a little longer in…

23 Aug 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month