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.

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