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The Thy Tracker (continued)


May 15–23  Peranakan  24–25  27–29  Sireh  30a  30b  30c–31
Malaysia: Melaka June 1–2, Kuala Lumpur 3–4, Penang 6
Vietnam: Saigon 13–16  19-20  22  26  27 30
Nha Trang July 7a 7b, Hue 14a 14b, Hanoi 19–20
India: Pondicherry 31, Bangalore August 2–4, Kerala

Sireh refers to the areca plant and the stimulating chew that stains teeth a distinctive red. Thin shavings of its fruit, or what we call the betel nut, have marbled white and brown streaks much like nutmeg. The shavings are wrapped neatly with lime, tobacco, and sometimes spices inside a betel leaf. Piles of the heart-shaped, peppery betel leaf appear in produce markets and help identify betel nut vendors stationed on sidewalks. Chewing betel nut is popular from India to Southeast Asia to the Pacific Islands. It’s not just an intoxicating habit. The offering of betel nut is vitally important in both social and religious rituals. Families pass on sireh sets as heirlooms, and betel nut itself appears as a crucial part of many wedding ceremonies.

The Asian Civilisations Museum also sponsored a demonstration of the Malay sireh rampai. Given to guests at weddings, the sireh rampai is a betel leaf wrapped into a cone and then filled with a fragrant mixture of finely shredded pandanus and flower petals. As you enjoy its perfume the rest of the day, you’re reminded of the purity of the bride and the strength of friendship.