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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