How to Chew Pinang: an Illustrated Guide.


Pinang is a…something… (I believe it’s called betel nut in English) that people chew a lot in Papua. I was putting it off for a long time because all the foreigners I know who have eaten it think it’s kind of gross. But I knew I’d have to try it eventually, because you can’t be Papuan until you’ve had it. Last Saturday, I had my big chance. This is how it went:

This is pinang. Plus little green sticks that you eat with it. Plus my hand.

First, you crack it open with your teeth. This may take several tries.

Once you crack it open, it looks like this. You take out the meaty part in the middle, put in a piece of the green stick (see above) and some lye (white powder) and cover that with the meaty part of the nut. Then chew on half of it.

The combination of those ingredients causes a chemical reaction that makes this red juice. Kind of scary looking. Apparently there are some addictive properties, and people say it makes them dizzy, but I didn't experience either of those things.

It gets real juicy. All over Papua there are red stains on the sidewalks, streets, in buildings, on walls, etc. from people spitting out the pinang juice. There are also plenty of signs saying, "Don't chew pinange here. It's not pretty." Well, maybe that's not exactly what they say...

This is the woman who gave me the pinang, and helped me become one step closer to being Papuan. I'd also like to give a special thanks to my staff, who coached me through the process and took lots of pictures.

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2 Comments on “How to Chew Pinang: an Illustrated Guide.

  1. OK, that’s really gross. :)

    Of all the things we saw and that someone would want to try in Papua that would have been at the bottom of my list. Hope the addictive properties don’t grab you!

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  2. Ahhh I just read this book, The White Tiger, and they talk about pinang all the time in it! The book takes place in India, apparently all the poor people there chew it like tobacco or something. I think I’ll be passing on that experience…

    Like

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