Benefits of betel leaf
September 28 2017 10:27 PM
Healthy: Betel leaf is a healthy food. Photo by the author
Healthy: Betel leaf is a healthy food. Photo by the author

Betel leaf is also known as Paan ka patta meaning the leaf used to make “paan”. It is a heart shaped leaf that is consumed in Indian subcontinent as a mouth freshener after a meal. Apart from being used as a mouth freshener betel leaf comes with tonnes of other health benefits too. Betel leaf’s medicinal uses are hugely underrated but highly efficient. I have not met an American in my last one year in USA who knows about this leaf and has ever tasted anything similar to this. Let’s take a dive into the world of betel leaf uses, benefits and get amazed.
From using it in prayers and religious ceremonies to eating it in the form of a “paan”, betel leaves contain many curative and healing health benefits. The leaves are full of vitamins like vitamin C, Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin and Carotene and are a great source of Calcium. Since betel is an aromatic creeper, you can easily grow it your backyard as an ornamental plant and derive maximum health benefit from the same. Often referred to as a “paan leaf”, here are some useful medicinal properties of the betel leaf. 
It helps in treating diabetes – it is believed that the components present in betel leaves can reduce the level of sugar in the blood, thus helps in controlling diabetes. So betel leaves can be used effectively by people who are trying to shed weight. It increases the metabolism rate on the body and helps reduce body fat. It helps in healing wounds. Betel leaf, when applied over a wound and bandaged can heal around and accelerate the healing process. They are widely used in natural medicine and Ayurveda for treating boils. Betel leaves also come to rescue when you have a headache. The leaves have cooling properties which provide instant relief from the ache. The leaves also contain the goodness of antioxidants which clears the free radical in our body. This restores the normal ph level of an upset stomach. As a result constipation is eased. You can simply chew betel leaf and ingest its juice on an empty stomach each day to get relief from constipation. Another way to extract the goodness is to mince betel leaf with water and store it overnight-drink the stored water on an empty stomach the next day. 
People often perceive betel leaf with oral diseases but actually it is chewing of tobacco along the betel leaf. 
Betel leaf-oil helps to refresh breath, protects against germs, bacteria and other oral pathogens in the mouth. It also prevents tooth decay and helps to strengthen the gum and reinforces teeth. 
Betel leaf is not so commonly used in cooking, but I often include this unique leaf for its distinct taste and overall fragrance while cooking. One of the signature items in my restaurant is “Paan Shot” which is the extract of betel leaf, fennel seeds, rose petals and is served as a digestive after the meal. It is very popular among the patrons.
The below recipe is about fresh water fish mince coated on betel leaf and batter fried to get a crispy, delicious and unique dish.

Betel Leaf Fish

King fish fillet 400 gm
Betel leaves 6-8 no
Ginger, chopped 1/2 inch cube
Green chili, chopped 2 no
Cilantro chopped 2 tbsp
Bell pepper, chopped 4 tbsp
Oil 1 tbsp
Oil to fry 2 cups
Gram flour 1 cup
Corn starch 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder a pinch
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Lemon wedge 3-4 nos. 

Skin the king fish fillet and remove bones if present and chop it to small pieces or mince it using a mincing machine
Place the fish mince in a bowl and combine the ginger, green chili, coloured bell peppers, cilantro and season with salt and pepper 
Make a batter by combining gram flour and corn starch, turmeric, salt and pepper and keep aside
Take a betel leaf and coat a thin layer of the fish mince on it, repeat for the remaining leaves, keep the stem of the leaf intact
Heat oil over medium heat and dip the prepared betel leaf in the batter and deep fry over medium heat
Fry till the fish is cooked and the batter is light gold in colour
Place on a kitchen towel to drain excess oil and serve hot with choice of salad and lemon wedge on the side

Note: You can replace king fish with any other easily available fish or your choice of fish. You can also substitute fish with chicken mince and make a chicken version of this recipe too.

* Chef Tarun Kapoor,  Culinary Mastermind,  USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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