|Betel leaves and areca nuts|
History of chewing betel
Betel and areca have not only appeared in Vietnamese folklore, folk verses, folk songs, and folk festivals, but have become an indispensable part of Vietnamese people’s daily life. Betel and areca are used to start a conversation and help people become closer and more open with each other. They serve as offerings in important traditional ceremonies, such as offering rituals, engagements, weddings, funerals and burials.
How To Use Betel Nuts
According to traditional medicine, chewing areca nut and betel leaf is a good remedy against bad breath. If you want to try, you can buy betel nuts and edible lime. When chewed, the stimulant effect can be felt almost immediately and it lasts for three to five hours.
To make your own betel nut mixture, take an amount of betel nut (1/4 nut is a good place to start but use as much or little as you desire) and break into small pieces or powder. The pieces will be chewed, so you can break them up into any size you feel comfortable with. Something like vise-grips will break into small pieces or powder. Roasted betel nuts are easiest to break into smaller pieces.
After mixing, place the betel/lime in the side of your mouth between the cheek and jaw, and chew it once in a while. Let the mixture remain in your mouth for an hour or longer, and swallow any saliva your mouth produces. Try not to swallow much betel nut directly, it can cause an upset stomach.
When finished, spit out the remaining mixture, rather than swallow it. Effects are stimulating and can be compared to a mild amphetamine dose (for someone who is not tolerant to stimulants). There is also an appetite suppressing effect. They have a spicy taste and large amounts of saliva are usually produced when chewing betel nut.
If you like the taste, you can chew betel nut alone but the stimulating effect is minimized without lime. You can sometimes find flavored betel nuts by adding a bit of nutmeg or cloves to the betel/lime mixture to improve the taste, etc.
|A betel kit|
|Betel leaves and areca nuts for wedding ceremonies|
Chewing betel in modern society
Today’s young people are not much interested in betel chewing, many old people in Vietnam still retain it as a beautiful custom.
There aren’t any streets or markets which specialize in selling betel and areca nuts. Today only vendors from Hung Yen province or from outlying districts of Hanoi still offer the products.
Few old people in Hanoi still retain the habit of chewing betel. Those who buy betel and areca nuts buy them for offering on the first or the fifteen day of every lunar month or for wedding ceremonies.
In the countryside, many old people still maintain the habit of chewing betel. Thus dark green betel vines with big, thick leaves twining around tall areca trees can still be seen in the gardens of rural households.
Chewing betel used to be a very popular practice among people in all walks of life, from ordinary people to royalty and has become a beautiful characteristic of Vietnam’s traditional culture.