Showing posts with label bengali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bengali. Show all posts

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.

Apr 17, 2017

Ingredients: Radhuni, Ajmod, Wild Celery Seed


Radhuni, ajmod, or wild celery is a spice unique to the cuisine of Bengal. The dried fruits or seeds closely resemble ajwain, caraway, and celery seeds in both appearance and flavor. In Bengali cuisine the seeds are used whole and quickly fried in very hot oil to mellow their sharp taste. Radhuni is also used in the traditional Bengali five spice mixture called panch phoron.


The botanical names for the radhuni plant are Carum roxburghianum and Trachyspermum roxburghianum.  In Hindi the plant is called ajmod and in English it is also known as wild celery. The plant is a multi-branched flowering annual in the family Apiaceae and is related to ajwain and parsley.  It is grown extensively as a fresh herb in the South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia and reaches up to three feet in height. 


The fresh leaves of radhuni are used as an aromatic herb in Thailand and it is used medicinally in Myanmar. It is also known as kant-balu in Burmese, and phak chi lom in Thai. Young plants are harvested and consumed as s side salad or added to soup in Thailand, Viet Nam, and Myanmar. I've seen similar plants sold as a fresh herb here at markets in Nepal in the early Fall. I just thought they were lovage.


Radhuni is grown from seeds in small scale and multiple crops during rainy season. The plant or fresh herb looks like a cross between parsley, lovage, and celery. It prefers well drained soil that is calcium rich, a temperate climate, and partial sun.



The small dried fruits of the herb are commonly referred to as seeds. These seeds are utilized as the spice called radhuni in Bengali cuisine. They have a rather sharp, metallic parsley scent when raw. When fried in hot oil they mellow into a celery-like flavor. It is a very strong spice and more than couple of pinches can easily overpower a dish. After tempering the whole radhuni seeds are used to flavor pickles, chutneys, fish dishes, meat dishes, and dal.


The most common usage of radhuni in Bengali cuisine is in the famed five spice mixture called panch phoron. Panch means five and phoron means spice or flavor. The other ingredients in this blend are equal parts of cumin seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed, and kalonji. Unlike most spice mixes, panch phoron is always used whole and never ground.


Panch phoron releases its aroma when the seeds are fried in hot oil or ghee. This tempering technique is called baghaar or chaunk and mellows the harsh flavors of the raw spices.  After tempering, other ingredients are added to the fried spices to be coated or infused with the mixture. Traditionally, panch phoron is used with vegetables, chicken or beef curry, fish, lentils, pickles, and a unique vegetable dish called shukto.


If you are unable to find radhuni where you're at a good substitute would be celery seed. Celery seed's grassy, savory, earthy, slightly bitter flavor is quite similar to radhuni. This only difference I can discern between celery seed and radhuni is a bit of a lemony note.

Calmly currying on,
Bibi

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