Using Panch Phoron in Bengali & Indian Cooking Explained

Panch phoron is an amazing, mild aromatic blend of five common, whole Indian spice seeds. The famous ‘Mix of Five’ includes cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and nigella seeds.

This spice mix is mostly used in Bangladesh and East Indian cuisines for an aromatic addition.

It is a deep-seated belief in these regions that no one can go wrong with this blend of spices.

Anyone, who is not a good cook or just learning how to cook and so unsure about using the complicated spices in the right proportion, can safely go with panch phoron.

Panch phoron is easily available in packets at grocery stores. You can also prepare it at home. Buy the spices and mix them in the right proportion, it’s as easy as that.

Panch Phoron in Bengali & Indian Cooking

What is Panch Phoron?

Both ‘Panch’ in Bengali and ‘Paanch’ in Hindi mean five and ‘Phoron’ means tempering spices.

Because of the blend of 5 flavourful seeds, it is popularly called ‘panch phoron’. It is a wonderful and aromatic blend to add flavours effortlessly to many Bengali dishes, especially the vegetable curries and chutneys.

The proportion of combinations varies from one brand to another or from one household to another. Due to the variations, there might be a mild or significant difference in aroma of panch phoron.

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Uses of Panch Phoron in Bengali & Indian Cooking

“Sabete phoron debar darker nei”. It’s almost like an adage in Bengali. If translated literally, it means phoron need not be added to everything.

It is jokingly (and sometimes chidingly) advised to someone who tries to poke nose into a matter where his/her opinion is not needed.

In Bengali cuisines, panch phoron plays an important role in adding flavour to a recipe.

The spice mix does the job so effortlessly that when in doubt, it is best to use this flavoursome union of seeds.

Almost all Bongs feel a very special kind of nostalgic itching when it comes to “mayer hater ranna”. My mother is the best chef – everyone will tell you that.

And when it comes to the bestest of best dishes cooked by mom, we can vividly remember how mothers used to add panch phoron to masoor dal (pink lentils) to turn a simple dal into a scrumptious delight.

Another popular dish that uses panch phoron is papaya curry. In addition to papaya, potato and bari (lentil dumpling) are also used. Panch phoron takes the flavour of the dish to a divine level.

Hilsa fish head with spinach flavor is enhanced by panch phoron.

In Bengali, jackfruit is called echor. It is popularly known as veg mutton because it is prepared with plenty of spices and the outcome is rich, royal and aromatic.

Echor kosha is a popular spicy recipe from the Bengali repertoire. It is a veg dish though can make the non-veg maddies go crazy over it.

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Panch phoron is coarsely crushed for use in the recipe and it adds a distinct aroma, much different from the mix of whole seeds.

Kumror chakka is a common and delectable veg curry from the Bongs’ kitchens. Potato and pumpkin cubes are paired with snake gourds and kabuli chana.

Tempering with panch phoron and other flavourful spices enhances the flavours of veggies and overall, the taste of the dish that goes perfect with roti, paratha or rice.

Bengali style tomato chutney is a delectable, flavourful palate cleaner. This rich spice-loaded chutney gets a boost from panch phoron whereas use of green chillies and ginger adds to its spiciness.

Tomato chutney is also prepared in other regions. A little variation is done in preparation and it can mildly change the taste from region to region.

Tempering with panch phoron is almost a must for many varieties of sweet, tangy and richly flavoured chutney.

Just like tomato chutney, pineapple chutney is another delight that makes a good use of a melange of spices.

The subtlety in taste that panch phoron brings to the dish is amazing and incomparable.

When Should You Add Panch Phoron While Cooking?

If you are preparing dal, use it as tarka at the end of cooking. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a ladle and hold it slightly above the oven.

When oil comes to the smoking point, add 1 teaspoon of panch phoron.

When the seeds start fluttering, turn off the gas and add it to masoor dal. Mix well so that flavour evenly spreads throughout the dish.

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If you are preparing a curry, use it at the start of cooking.

This way, the flavour will penetrate into the oil and it will permeate through the ingredients evenly.

What is the Taste of Panch Phoron?

It is really difficult to describe the taste of panch phoron. Each seed has a different taste of its own.

Broadly speaking, the mix offers a unique, mild flavour and tastes slightly bitter due to mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds.

Both fennel seeds and mustard seeds lend an earthy and nutty undertone. Use only a teaspoon of panch phoron in whatever you are preparing.

If panch phoron is used more than what is required, it will make the dish bitter.

Questions & Answers:

Should You Cook with Panch Phoron?

It depends on the dishes one is preparing. Panch phoron is not used in non-veg dishes. Moreover, not all veg dishes use it. I have shared some most common recipes that make a good use of panch phoron.

What Foods Can You Put Panch Phoron on?

Panch phoron is usually put on some veg curries, both rich and mildly spicy, and chutneys where an added flavour can do wonders in taste.

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