Panch Phoran means “five spices” in Bengali and is probably the single most used spice blend in all of India, even more so than curry. We’ve noticed it can be spelled differently, either Phoran or Phoron, but it’s referring to the same thing. This blend is entirely comprised of seeds—mustard, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and nigella—and counter to how we typically suggest using the spices we sell, leave ‘em whole while you cook! Brown this blend of whole spices in ghee or oil as a flavor base to many dishes.
Why leave the spices whole, you ask? Well, as our friends at Épices de Cru, gurus of all-things-spice, explain, toasting or dry-roasting ground spices will burn almost instantly and be a fast way to ruin a meal. In addition to leaving the spices whole, browning them in oil or ghee works as a vehicle to trap the flavors within. The oil becomes infused with the release of the essential oils from the spices as heat is applied. Pretty neat! If you’ve ever tried this with cloves of garlic, it’s the same technique being used. In the case of the garlic, you could remove the cloves and be left with an exquisite elixir that has a myriad of uses. Drizzle your garlic-infused oil on popcorn, fry some eggs in it, use it in a salad dressing, swirl it over hummus, dunk some bread in it…we could go on. In the case of Panch Phoran, you’ll leave the seeds in the oil or ghee, the “ flavor base” of the dish, and then continue to add ingredients as you cook. In Bengal, this blend is the spice base of many fish, vegetable and meat dishes and is also used in many types of chutneys. What creations will you make in your kitchen with this blend? We hope you have fun experimenting with flavors!
Braised Vegetable Stew with Panch Phoran Recipe
Recipe and photo courtesy of our friends at Épices de Cru
A well-rounded dish perfect for all seasons and palettes. The trick is to use an array of firm vegetables: carrots, cabbage, eggplant, potatoes, daikons, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, parsnips, squash, turnips, etc. Since turnips can tend to be on the bitter side, adding sweeter vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots balances the flavors nicely. Get as many colors into the dish as you can and slow-cook the vegetables to mouth-watering perfection.
- 8 cups vegetables of your choice
- 4 Tbsp Panch Phoran
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh hot chiles, chopped
- 1 tsp Black Pepper, ground
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Turmeric, ground
- 2 tsp sugar
- Slice the vegetables into ½ -inch cubes. Set aside.
- In a large, heavy pan over medium heat, caramelize the Panch Phoran in the oil (10-15 seconds).
- Add the chile, bay leaves, salt, pepper, turmeric, and the ginger. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Add the vegetables. Mix well.
- Cook uncovered until water is released from the vegetables. Cover, reduce to low heat and let simmer.
- With a wooden spoon, stir every so often, allowing the vegetables to stew slowly (30-45 minutes). Remove the cover toward the end of the cooking time to allow excess liquid to evaporate. Incorporate the sugar 5 minutes before you finish cooking.
- Let cool before serving.