What is Panch Phoron?
Panch phoron – also called Panch Puran, Panch Podan, or Panch Phutana – is a blend of five different whole spices. It is originally from the Indian subcontinent and is very popular among eastern and northeastern areas.
This spice mix is often used in eastern Indian, Nepal, and Bengali cuisines, etc.
The name “panch phoron” translates to “five spices” in English, as it is made up of a mixture of five different spices.
Each of these spices contributes its own unique flavor and aroma to the blend.
This spice blend is typically used as a seasoning for vegetables, lentils, and other dishes. It is often added to the hot oil at the beginning of cooking to release its flavors and enhance the dish’s overall taste. The mix also adds a distinct and earthy flavor to dishes, with hints of bitterness, sweetness, and warmth.
What is it made of?
Panch phoron is made of five essential whole spices, including cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, black/brown mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds.
Because of the unique combination, you can not really substitute Panch Puran. If you do not have all five of them, you may be able to use some or a few of the five whole spices instead.
I’d shy away from using any other spice mixes, such as garam masala or curry powder, in replace of Panch Phoron. Because not only the form of the spices is totally different, the spice combination is not the same. So, they offer distinct flavors, tastes, and textures.
What do you use it for?
This aromatic blend is typically used for tempering or seasoning various dishes, particularly in vegetarian and lentil-based recipes. The spices are usually added to hot oil or ghee (tarka/ tadka) at the beginning of the cooking process to release their flavors and add depth to the dish.
Its slightly bitter and nutty flavor complements the earthiness of vegetables and lentils, enhancing the overall taste and aroma of the dish.
Although this aromatic spice mix is not often used in Pakistani cooking, there are some recipes that require these spices. Achari chicken is one of them.
And you can always use this spice combo for marination. Grind the mix and use it as a rub for your meat or fish next time you do roast or barbecue. Don’t forget to squeeze some lemon over. Promise your grilled meat, chicken or fish will taste amazing.
How to make Panch Phoron
To make panch phoron, you need the five essential spices in whole form and not in ground or powder form. Once you make the spice blend, you can grind it into powder and use the powder mix in your cooking.
The most common panch phoron recipe suggests putting every whole spice in an equal amount, i.e., one tablespoon for each spice.
However, I find that this composition gives an unbalanced taste to the combo simply because each spice has its own strength of flavor and taste. Overall, the blend tastes more bitter and uneven.
Having said that, you can always try that recipe. So take equal amounts of each spice and mix them together.
But I personally find the following proportion works best for me.
- 1 tablespoon of whole cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon of whole fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon of whole nigella seeds
- ¾ tablespoon of whole brown mustard seeds
- ¾ tablespoon of whole fenugreek seeds
Next, heat a small skillet or a small frying pan over medium-low heat and add the spice mixture. Dry roast the seeds for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until they become fragrant and start crackling.
Take care not to burn them because this will give a bitter taste to the blend. Once toasted, quickly remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a small bowl or plate. Let the blend cool completely before storing it in an airtight jar/ container.
The benefit of Panch Phoron
The combination of these five spices adds a distinctive and delicious flavor to the dishes, and Panch Phoron also offers numerous health benefits due to its individual spices.
For example, cumin seeds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, and they may also promote digestion. Black mustard seeds are a good source of minerals like manganese, iron, and calcium. And they also have antimicrobial properties that can boost the immune system.
Fenugreek seeds are known to aid digestion and improve blood sugar control. Nigella seeds are rich in antioxidants and may help reduce cholesterol levels and improve heart health. Lastly, fennel seeds are known for their antioxidant properties and ability to relieve digestive issues.
Overall, the spices in panch puran add a delightful flavor to dishes and provide several health benefits, giving us no reason not to use them.