A little known but an amazingly aromatic Indian spice blend, panch phoron is a mix of five spices so easy to use that even those who find cooking with spices complicated and unsure can never go wrong with this blend at hand. This post details the uses of panch phoron in cooking, food pairings and substitute.
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Hailing from Eastern part of India and Bangladesh, Panch phoron is a must have spice of the region.
A mix of mild aromatic spices you will find yourself reaching for it whenever in doubt about adding flavour and texture to your meals.
If you were to pronounce the name of the spice in true Bengali style then is it known as P…a.aach Phoron also written as paanch phoron.
Panch phoron In Different Languages.
Since this is a spice blend, this spice does not have translations to other languages.
However different people call it in different ways.
This one spice blend has many names.
Some refer it as panch phoran or panch phoran masala which literally translates to 5 spices spice, or the Bengali way which is Paanch Phoron.
You may also know it as Bengali spice or Indian 5 spice.
Call it as you may it is the same spice blend.
What is Panch Phoron?
‘Panch or paanch’ in Hindi and Bengali respectively means 5 and the word ‘Phoron or Phoran’ means tempering spices.
Because of the specific mix of 5 spices, this blend is also commonly known as Bengali 5 spice.
It is in my personal opinion one of the must have Indian spice blends to have if you are an Indian food lover.
The spices used are whole flavourful seeds, the combinations of which can differ from brand to brand or from household to household.
The spices or ingredients in making 5 phoron are more or less standard in most blends. They are fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and nigella seeds.
There may be blends that use different types of spices depending on preference, regional origins and taste.
For example some blends may use different types of mustard seeds. like brown or yellow or even a combination. Although the most popular type of mustard seeds used in a panch phoron blend is brown mustard.
Some use fennel seeds or aniseed.
Although not too different from the other you can read the difference between fennel seeds and aniseed here.
The other spice that is a bone of contention when it comes to a panch phoron recipe is the use of either radhuni also known as wild celery in place of nigella seeds.
Nigella seeds or black seeds is the one commonly used in commercially sold panch phoron mixes, while radhuni is a typical Bengali herby spice the flavour of which can be related to thyme and carom seeds.
Since it can be hard to find Radhuni elsewhere other than in Bengal, Nigella seeds is the preferred next.
So like most spice blends, there is not set recipe for Panch phoron. The whole spices are mixed in equal quantity although this depends on personal preference.
While most spice blends will require you to roast, grind and blend, this one is simple.
You just take the 5 whole spices, mix together and the blend is done.
How Does Panch Phoron Taste like?
There is no specific or adequate way to describe the flavour and taste of this blend.
It can broadly be categorized as a mild aromatic blend with a slight bitter taste which comes from fenugreek and mustard seeds.
A melange of flavours in just a spoonful you have to try the spice first to justify the taste.
How To Use Panch Phoron For Cooking?
The uses of Panch phoran is easy, simple and varied. If you happen to be a beginner cook and struggle with ideas to add a little flavour oomph to your dishes be it stir fries, curries, roast or stews then this is one versatile spice with multiple uses.
Below are few ideas for you to cook with panch phoron:
- The most traditional use of Paanch phoron is to temper or fry it in warm oil or ghee for few seconds causing them to pop and flavour the oil before adding other vegetables, or ingredients to it.
- You can coarsely grind panch phoron and use it as a marinade or rub for meats and chunky root vegetables for roasting.
- Add a teaspoon to chutneys, sauces and dips.
- Add it to breads such as naans, pizza base or even as toppings to your bagels.
- Use it as a pickling spice and add it to pickled gherkins, onions, tomatoes
- Lightly roast and crush them and add it to salads and soups for additional flavour.
- It is a wonderful spice to add to simple stir fried vegetables.
Panch Phoron Health Benefits
Being a mix of 5 healthy spices, it is a given that panch phoron is packed with nutrition and immensely healthy.
Some of the known health benefits are:
May keep blood sugar in control – Fenugreek helps to keep the system clean and is beneficial for those suffering from diabetes by maintaining blood glucose levels.
Aids in Digestion – Cumin and fennel seeds both help in the secretion of pancreatic enzymes that are known to keep a good digestive system.
Helps to relieve aches and skin disorders – Nigella seeds have many healing properties and used in Ayurvedic medicines to cure aches and pains and maintain healthy skin and hair.
May help aid weight loss – Spices such as mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds are known to have nutrients, omega 3 fatty acids and fibre rich nutrients that may help to maintain healthy body weight.
What Are The Best Substitute for Panch Phoron
If you have started out into venturing with spices, then I would surely recommend keeping this blend in hand as they are so easy to use.
The unique combination of different flavours makes it difficult to replicate the taste.
No one spice can be a substitute for panch phoron. So below are two closest combination for you to replicate the flavours.
Option 1 – Mix black seeds, mustard seeds, and fennel seeds
Option 2 – Use a combination of thyme, cumin seeds, mustard seeds
Best Food Pairings
Being a mild neutral spice, panch phoron is versatile and goes well with most food items.
Best food pairing: root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, ginger, turnip, sweet potatoes, green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, chicken, lamb, meat, eggs, seafood, rice, curries
Best spice pairing: asafoetida, cardamom, cinnamon,sesame seeds, ground ginger, cloves,curry leaves, dry chilies, coriander seeds, turmeric
Where to Buy Paanch Phoron?
If you happen to have a large supermarket with a dedicated ethnic foods section then you may be lucky enough to find it there.
If not then you are sure to find it in an ethnic grocery store.
You can also buy it directly online such as the one below from amazon.
How to Store it?
It is best to store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight and humidity.
Well stored seeds will keep its character and flavour for a least 2 years.
In Bengali cuisine, Panch phoran masala plays a crucial in flavouring food and is used in many dishes.
Made using 5 whole spices, Panch Phoran or Panch Phoron is a traditional spice mix that is popularly used in Eastern Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine.
The mild and versatile taste makes it an easy to use spice blend which with a little bit of imagination can be used in many different ways to flavour food.
It is not only limited in savoury dishes such as curries, stir fries, and fried foods but also used in condiments, flat breads and beverages as well.
You just need to use this traditional Indian spice blend once to know the magic of flavours it creates.