Meet Panch Phoron—a robust, nutty, mildly sweet whole seed spice blend! Translating to “Five Spices” or “Five Flavors” in Bengali, this versatile seed blend features a variety of unique flavors that can be utilized in many different cuisines. Most commonly used in South Asian and Indian cooking, this quintessential Indian five-spice is a staple in kitchens along with its ground spice-blend pal, Garam Masala! Spicewalla's Panch Phoron is composed of cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, and fenugreek seeds. The Cumin and brown mustard provide an earthy, pungent warmth, while nigella seeds pack a strong, peppery punch. Fenugreek seeds, while bitter raw, give off a nutty, maple-y flavor when toasted, and the fennel seeds add a touch of sweetness balancing out this robust bunch, creating a flavor profile that is beautifully versatile!
While the true origin of Panch Phoron is unknown, some believe it’s connected to the importance of the number five in Ayurveda—relating to the concept of Pancha Bhoota, the basic five elements of life in Hinduism: fire, water, air, earth, and ether. The number five is said to show up repeatedly in Indian food and, specifically, Bengali cuisine—which could have a little something to do with why this gorgeous blend is made up of a total of FIVE super seeds!
So, how do you cook with Panch Phoron? Unlike ground spice blends, this whole spice blend works best when “tempered” before cooking with it. Tempering, or “Tadka,” is an Indian cooking technique that allows the full flavor potential of whole spices to be unlocked by briefly heating them in ghee, or oil (make sure to use one with a high smoke point, such as avocado oil!), releasing their essential oils and bringing out the spice’s strongest flavor. After blooming the spices, the Tadka is added to the dish—oil and all. It is a common addition to dal (Indian lentil soup) and sambar (lentil stew with tamarind broth). Tadka can be used at the beginning of a dish or as a finishing touch. And, if you’re looking to mix it up, you can use crushed Panch Phoron to make a crust on pork or other meats of your choice, as a seasoning for hardy, roasted vegetables, or as a way to make plain rice a little more interesting! Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with a blend this versatile, so let your imaginations soar, friends!