Apr 19, 2017

Panch Phoron (Bengali Five Spice)

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Panch Phoron is a fragrant blend of five spices and a signature flavor of traditional Bengali cuisine. Panch means five and phoron means spices or flavors. What makes this spice mix unusual is that it's typically used in its whole form rather than ground or powdered. Panch phoron can be used with any vegetable or lentil dish and is particularly good with seafood.

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The five spices that traditionally comprise panch phoron are: fenugreek seed, nigella seed,  radhuni seed, fennel seed, and cumin seed. All the spices have their own unique notes: the pungent maple-like flavor of fenugreek seed, the celery-like greeness of radhuni seed, the slightly bitter oregano-like nigella seed, the anisic punch of fennel seed, and the peppery warmth of cumin seed. So simple yet such depth of flavor!
Ajwain or Carom seeds
Radhuni or wild celery seeds
Some variations may substitute anise for the fennel, ajwain for the radhuni, and black cumin for nigella. Generally the ingredients are added in equal proportions, though this can vary according to taste. To make panch phoron you simply mix equal amounts of all the spices together and store it in an airtight container.

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In the tradition of Bengali cuisine, one usually fries the panch phoron first in cooking oil or ghee. This causes the whole spices to start popping and become wonderfully fragrant. This technique is called baghaar or bagar in Bengali, and chaunk in Hindi. After this tempering, other ingredients are added to the fried spices to be coated or infused with the mixture. Dry roasted panch phoron is sometimes ground to make a powder that is sprinkled on chutneys. Although panch phoran is utilized in other parts of northern and eastern India, it's almost impossible to imagine Bengali food without it!

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Panch phoron is available commercially under several brand names. You may also see this blend called panch puran, panch phutana,  panch phoran or panch pora. If you'd like to make it yourself here's the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 TBS nigella/kalonji seeds
1 TBS cumin/jeera seeds
1 TBS mustard seeds (or radhuni/wild celery seeds)*
1 TBS fennel/saunf seeds
1 TBS fenugreek/methi seeds

Here's what to do:
1) Combine all the ingredients in an airtight light-proof container.

2) Shake well to mix ingredients. Store sealed away from heat or direct light.

Helpful Hints:
I'm using mustard seeds in place of the traditional radhuni/wild celery seeds. You could also use ajwain for the Nepali version of panch phoron or just the plain celery seeds you can find in western markets.

9 comments:

  1. I love the taste of this. We got a couple of Bengali cookbooks recently, though we've yet to try anything from it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mim,
      It's really a great mix. I think it would be fantastic atop a bagel or a baguette too!

      Delete
  2. Panch phoron is now added to The List for our expedition to Jungle Jim's! I'm attempting to eat more lentils, and adding panch phoron will improve my options.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Beth,
      Just remember that a little dab will do'ya when using panch phoron!

      Delete
  3. Any advice on preventing burns when the seeds pop out of hot oil? I seem to be a magnet for burning things leaping from frying pans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Goody,
      That is an ongoing problem in South Asian cooking when so many dishes require superheated oil! Splashing oil & popping seeds re a daily hazard here. Since we don't have an exhaust system over our stove I choose cooking vessels with high sides like Dutch ovens & stock pots to cook in. That keeps the oil & seeds fairly contained & from spattering all over the walls & the cook!

      Delete
  4. As you said, one can taste all the spices in Paanch Phoron. Our fish dishes would not taste half as good without this wonderful spice mix.

    The word Phoron reminds me of the much used Bangla expression "Phoron Kata", which my late mother used often, which means a wise crack in the middle of a conversation, or a comment which can change the flow and flavor of the conversation for good or bad. It is the same as tempering with spices, as soon as the bagaar is added, the flavour of the dish changes dramatically. Like conversation, cooking is also about timing, the right timing and everything goes well.

    Apple

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Apple,
      It's such a simple yet versatile spice mix. So much flavor & no grinding required. I like it in simple dals.

      Delete
  5. This is a lovely spice mix that gives outstanding aroma and taste to the dishes. Thanks for sharing the recipe of this excellent masala.

    ReplyDelete

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