Showing posts with label mustard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mustard. 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!

panch phoron, panch puran, panch phutana,  panch phoran,  panch pora, fennel, fenugreek, cumin, radhuni, ajmod, mustard, nigella, kalonji, bengal, bengali, indian, five spice, bengali five spice,

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.

Feb 29, 2016

Ingredients: Mustard Oil

Mustard growing wild in the neighbors' winter wheat.

Mustard oil is traditionally used in many of the cuisines of South Asia.  It's distinctive pungent flavor is easily recognizable in the spicy pickles called "achaari" that are popular throughout the Indian subcontinent. Mustard oil is also used for deep frying pakoras and as a general cooking oil in many Desi cuisines. 

Bibi's infrequently used bottle of mustard oil.
Mustard oil is produced by grinding the seeds of the black mustard plant (Brassica nigra), the brown mustard plant (Brassica juncea), or the white mustard plant (Brassica hirta). Mustard oil's pungent flavor is due to the presence of allyl isothiocyanate, all plants in the Brassicaceae family such as horseradish, wasabi, cabbage, and turnips share this potent organosulfur compound's flavor. Along with it's sharp, nutty aspects there's really no way to describe the flavor of raw mustard oil without comparing it to the nose watering and rather caustic notes of wasabi and horseradish.

Brassica hirta or white mustard
The very same mustard that blooms throughout my native California in February  & March
Mustard oil has high levels of alpha-linolenic and erucic acids. While alpha-linoleic acid is one of the two essential fatty acids necessary for health, erucic acid is toxic in high doses. Studies done on rats in the 1970's demonstrated the cardiotoxic effects and perhaps some carcenogenic potential with high erucic acid intake. However, it has since been found that rats digest vegetable oils differently than humans. There have never been any documented reports of harm to humans due to high erucic acid via dietary intake. Mustard oil is not allowed to be imported or sold in the United States for use in cooking due to it's high erucic acid content.

Mustard seeds being ground for oil in India.
In order to reduce mustard oil's pungent flavor many cultures of South Asia heat the oil to smoking point in large quantities to "crack" it. I've seen this done in my Kashmiri relatives' homes. Not only does it terrify me to have a huge pot of smoking oil over a gas flame, the smoke produced is highly irritating to the eyes and airways. When I wish to reduce the pungent flavor of mustard oil I just dilute it with ghee or some other cooking oil. For pickles or achaari the pungent flavor of mustard oil is essential so there's no need to crack it. The use of mustard oil has significantly decreased in South Asia as other vegetable oils have become cheaper and more widely available.

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