Betel Nut

March 8, 2010

Some of you have asked me if I had ventured to try chewing betel nut in Taiwan. The answer is no. Betel nut is a known carcinogen and have been proven to cause oral cancer so I wasn’t ready to take that risk though my dad did try.

For those who don’t know what betel nut is. Here’s a photo of it in my dad’s hand.

It’s actually areca nut wrapped in betel leaves. Chewing of betel nut is common in many Asian and South East Asian communities. But it is extremely predominant in Taiwan. Although betel nut is losing it’s popularity to the younger generation it’s still tightly integrated in the Taiwan culture. They actually use betel nut as one of the offerings and bridal gifts during their marriage ceremony.

Here in my hand, you’ll see the betel nut without the leave wrapping and some sour plum. This is another common way for Taiwanese to have their betel nut and is preferred by those who is not completely used to the betel nut taste. Betel nuts are popular with many taxi drivers, farmers or truckers because it is a stimulant and would give an heighten sense of awareness which is very useful for these workers. In other words, it works like the Asian version of a caffeine boost.

Also unique to the betel nut trade in Taiwan is these betel nut beauties or binlang meis. In Taiwan they also refer then as binlang xishi as a reference to Xi Shi, a the legendary beauty of imperial China’s Spring and Autumn Period. I’m only posting up these 2 pictures of the betel nut girl that sold the betel nuts to us because the rest of the photos are just overtly distracting and NSFW.

We were along a highway when we stopped by these 2 X3 m glass houses where the betel nut girl would run down to the car to sell the betel nut. There were many girls but this one gamely posed to allowed me to take shots of her even though she knew I’ll be sharing the photographs. I can see why betel nut girls are such a hit with the men!

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