Thursday, June 07, 2007

MySpice -- Panch Phoron

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Panch phoran --- the Sorceress of Spices. Panch Phoran also known as panch phoron, panch puran, panchpuran, punch puram, punchpuram is a classic Bengali spice blend typically consisting of five spices in equal measure. It is more Bengali and maybe also Oriya than any other region of India.

The five spices that make up Panch Phoran are:

Fenugreek (methi) – the golden coloured bitter one
Nigella seed (kalonji) -- the jet black tiny one
Mustard seed or (rai or shorshe) – the black or brown flavored one
Fennel seed (saunf or mouri) – the greenish sweet one
Cumin seed (jira) – the buff colored strong one

In Bengal, the place of origin of this spice,sometimes a spice called radhuni is used in place of mustard seed. A better replacement for radhuni, hardly available outside of Bengal, would be celery seed. However my Panch Phoran always has mustard seeds and I like it that way

“Paanch” is bengali for Five and “Phoron” means spice. Panch Phoran is used mainly for tempering, to flavor the hot oil before adding rest of the ingredients. The essence being tempering with Five Spices. It is usually never ground or used as a powder unlike other spices which are used both in whole and ground form. However dry roasted panch phoron is ground to make a powder that is sprinkled on chutneys. But it is NEVER used in powder or paste form in any other preparation.

Panch phoron is added to the hot cooking oil before adding any other ingredients thus flavouring the oil and releasing the aroma of the seeds and causing them to pop in the pan. At this point the other ingredients are added. Here I have a recipe for quick stir fry of beans and potatoes with Panch Phoron, made in a almost typical Bengali way. The same recipe is used for other veggies too like Potatoes and Cauliflower or Potatoes and Okra and even with mixed Vegetables.

Though Panch phoron is usually not used to season any meats other than fish, I have used it for an awesome chicken dish that I will post soon

A beautiful almost lyrical post on Panch Phoron by Barbara of Tigers and Strawberries is here. Read it, she has done more justice to the spice than anybody ever could.

Some of my recipes in this blog that use Panch Phoron

Kumro-Chingri Botti (Pumpkin and Shrimp Sabzi) -- paanch phoron for tempering
Red Masoor Dal -- paanch phoron for tempering
Bangali Charchari -- panch phoron for tempering

Aamer Ambal ar Chaatni(Mango Chaatni) -- panch phoran dry roasted and ground to a powder. Sprinkle a little of this powder on the finished chaatni

Tomato Khejur Cranberry Chutney -- panch phoran dry roasted and ground to a powder. Sprinkle a little of this powder on the finished chaatni

If you do not have Panch Phoran but have all the five spices that are needed for this just add equal measures of each to get your own Panch Phoran. You may use the methi in less proportion to the others.


Aloo Beans er Tarkari

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What You Need

Green Beans ~ fresh green beans chopped about 2 cups. can be substituted by veggies like cauliflower, okra, peas.
Potatoes ~ 1 large sized cut in cubes
Green Chillies ~ 2-3 slit

For tempering
Panch Phoron ~ almost 1 tsp loosely packed

Turmeric ~ 1/4 tsp
Red Chilli Powder ~ optional and as per taste
Amchur Powder or Roopak Kala Chat Masala ~ absolutely optional and as per taste. Avoid this masala if you are using veggies other than green beans

How I Did It

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying pan
Add Panch Phoron. Wait for the seeds to pop.
Add the green chilies and the potato.
Sprinkle a little turmeric powder and saute
Add the chopped green beans and saute
Add Salt. If you want to spice it up add Red Chili Powder
Cover and cook by stirring off and on. Do not add water, you may sprinkle a little only. Be careful that it doesn't burn, so remember to stir and mix frequently
Now is a step no hard core Bong would ever do. Shhhhhh... don't tell your Bong friends but I add a little amchur powder or Roopak Kala Chat Masala at this point
Cook till done
Enjoy this dry dish with Roti or Rice.

References used for Panch Phoran: Wiki

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Check out the other spices in this series in the left side column.


  1. love that panch phoron, gives such a unique flavor to the dishes! ur subzi must have really tasted good with the pp tadka :)

  2. Except for kalonji I have everything, Next time I'm going get and will try.
    We use lots of cumin, mustard and methi seeds in our cooking. Love the pic.

  3. The photograph with spices is a beauty. Like Shivapriya said, I have everything except kalonji. But looks like a good combo though.

  4. I use it sometimes for dal.I don't particularly like the taste of Kalongi when I bite into it though.
    Great write up.Subzi looks so yummy Sandeepa.I had some scarce leftovers today for lunch and this photo is making me hungry!:)

  5. I just love the mix of these spices. Masoor daal I made turned out excellent with a dash of this spice. Maybe some time if u could post the recipe made of banana flower and dash of PP would be great. I have had this in a resturant and have flipped over it ever since. Thanks for sharing the Bangla pp mix.

  6. I shall try this sounds simple too..thats what i love about your site....u make cooking sound so much easier and thats where the greatness lies......KISS : Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!!! :)

    i have all the ingredients for Panch Phoron in my pantry so that helps too....and lovely first pic.....

    u know every time i try something from the blog and it turns out successful i feel like sharing the pic with you to tell u how happy i am that it turned out so good.....:)

  7. I miss the smell of panchphoran Sandeepa!growing up in Orissa,we had neighbours all over who would cook using this spice.I love curries with this-so simple yet so full of flavour:)

  8. 'Pach phoron' for you,'pass puron' for us, an absolute necessity in an Assamese kitchen...although, I'm ashamed to say, I hardly use it... I hope no hardcore Assamese reads this, who knows I may be boycotted...

  9. Sandeepa, lovely write-up and photo of paanch phoron! BTW, I will soon post my version of shukto which has ground paanch phoron sprinkled on top :-)

  10. Thank you, Sandeepa. I blended my own Panch Phoron, but was stymied on how to use it. Not knowing any better, I fried paneer cubes in it. The flavor was great, but the texture was too gritty. My error. I ate it anyway, but next time I will try one of your recipes.

  11. i've always been fascinated with the name "panch phoron" just sounds so exotic. I don;t have any kalonji at home... :(
    I just love the combination of potatoes and green beans...its so earthy!

  12. Sandeepa that is a lot of good information on Panch Phoran spices other than nigella that i use all the time. you used the whole spices not the powder for this dish ?

  13. Loved your aloo beans!!!!! And paanch phoran in it is great! Thanks for the heads up....... I was using this a lot in my cooking but somehow stopped since a while. Now I must go and mix them all together!

    Loved your write up as usual. :)

  14. Loved the wonderful writeup. I too harldy use kalonji seeds, i will try to include too. delicious yummy dish too!

  15. Thank you for explaining that in such lovely detail, Sandeepa. I've got some panch phoron and it seems all I'm doing lately is quick veggie dishes. Will definitely try this.

    Lovely photography too :)

  16. I don't need to tell you again, I use this very often - I think the kalonji is what makes a big difference!

  17. Beautiful picture Sandeepa... great info about a spice I have only heard the name of, had no idea what was in it... Indian Five Spice powder, eh? An interesting mix of spices, I'll try it, I have all the five ingredients at home.

  18. Heard and read a lot about panch poran. But never knew what it consisted of. Thanks a lot for this informative post Sandeepa. I have never tried kalonji, it is in my list for a long time now.

  19. Sandeepa,
    I sometimes make palyas(dry subzi) by giving Panch Phoron Thandka along with some red chilies as well and thats about it. With no other additions. The aroma of this combined with the veggies is just out of the world.

  20. Richa
    Panch Phoran tadka is a part of me. Either this or Kalonji is waht I use in my everday simple dishes

    Shivapriya & Suganya
    You get this as a small pack labeled "Panch Phoran" at the grocery stores too, so need not make this yourself

    You don't need to bite into Kalonji, actually i use it so much that I don't even remember biting into it :)

    You are right, the Masoor dal with this spice is awesome.

    You are too sweet :) Thanks and I would love to see your photographs of the food you make. You are such a good photographer would love to see your take on Food Photography and maybe get some tips from you too

    You know right :)

    ha, ha :) At my home its a must, I cannot live without it

    Radhunir bodol e panch phoron er guro dao ki ? Post yours and I will try that version too, not that I cook shukto often

    Try the Red Masoor dal with this spice, the flavor is awesome.
    Next time when you fry paneer with this spice add some potatoes or tomatoes, I think the smoothness of this veggies will balance out the gritiness, at least the grittiness will be masked


    We use Panch Phoron ALMOST ALWAYS as WHOLE FOR TEMPERING. If grounded, the powder is only used to sprinkle at the end, NEVER used like cumin or corriander powder

  21. Coffee
    Why did you stop ?

    Panch Phoran is also sold in a pack, see if you get that.

    you are a genius. you have panch phoron too ?

    I knew you would have used it. I use Kalonji separetely a lot but don't you thnk that all the spices are imp here, I specially love the sweetness of the fennel

    It is NOT A POWDER. It is ALMOST ALWAYS used as a WHOLE SPICE. Sometimes it is grounded but the powder is prinkled on top of the dish after the dish has been cooked

    Panch Phoran and kalonji is my every day companion, just like mustard seeds and curry leaves are for you I guess :)

    I think that is the BEST way to use Panch Phoran. I omitted the Red Chilli here because nowdays for my daughter we have to go a little low on chilli.

  22. Thanks for your great advice and following up on my blog w/ it. Very thoughtful of you.

  23. my Paanch Phoron is similar. But I have never tasted Radhuni. (The reasons why probasi's are required to go home sometimes)

  24. very interesting read san...i have all 4 spices except for nigella seeds... i need to buy them sometime soon.

  25. Sandeepa, thanks for this information, it is very useful.

    I have the recipe waiting to send to you about the fish kebabs. Email me at:

  26. Sandeepa thanks for the link to Barabara's, she knows more about Panch phoron than me !!!! Wasnt it amazing how she tried to characterize each spice??!!

  27. I am here Sandeepa, I know its been a long time, and this is my first comment to anyone after so long, too!

    Actually one of good friend was not feeling good and then we came to know that she has cancer. For one month we couldn't believe, didn't feel like doing anything. Will be joining you guys soon...I miss you all.
    But thanks to keep checking :)

  28. I am always looking for a chance to use this beautiful combination!!


  29. Probably the most Bengali of spices. But the one that I love it most in is Chodchodi.

  30. Lovely informative post with a beautiful photograph. Panch phoron is all you need for a simple yet yummy vegetable dish. Thanks so much for explaining it all so well...

  31. Wow!! This is the mother-lode of all recipes!!! Panch phoron is the best!! Often wondered aboout what the authentic mix should contain - Thank you for sharing!


  32. Sandeepa, Thanks for posting a comment asking for me :). I have lots going on and have no time to sit and blog though I have some pics in the camera:). I do try to blog hop to still be in foodie loop:))

    Just today my friend who is from Bihar was talking about Panch phoron and Jhonk and then got confused:). Now I see this here.

  33. At long last! I was wondering when you'd write about Panch Phoron and give us your expert advice on how to use it! :) Interesting recipe!

  34. I just don't add kalonji and fennel seeds all the time. will start including now on. sound so beautiful. thanks for the lovely info.

  35. Hi Sandeepa,

    I do not agree to mustard or shorshe being a part of the traditional Bangali Panch Phoron. The fifth spice is "Radhuni" not sure what would be the english term for the same :).

    But yes Panch phoron is a magical spice that so many of my north indian and south indian friends have started to enjoy. The magic lies in the fact that one doesnt need garlic/onions/ginger to add to the taste as vegetables cooked with panch phoron tastes so complete! Yes cooking in shorshe tel or mustard oil enhances or compliments the taste of paanch phoron.

    Usually south indians hate anything cooked in mustard oil, but my southy friends have borrowed panch phoron and mustard oil from me :D

    By the way I loved your recipe for Chingri Maacher Malai Curry. I shall try it out in a day or two.

  36. My husband has lived a better part of his life in Kolkata so I'm often in search of Bong recipes when its time to pamper him ;). I find the spice mix very intriguing. And though I might have used a combination of them or a few of those in many a recipes. Keeping it a a spice mix is totally new.

  37. Hi Sandeepa, hopped into Panch Phoron from your recipe of labda. I am making labda for the first time tomorrow for Bijoya dinner. I always thought that Radhuni was part of the 5th spice. Is there any equivalent to Radhuni? Do let me know:)

    1. I mostly use mustard as the fifth spice in my PaanchPhoron. We have been probashi bangalis with no access to radhuni for most parts so mustard has always been the best choice. If you do have radhuni, definitely use it.

  38. jai bolun na keno!! bengali 5 phoron's taste is much better than punjabi 5 phoron.. (bengali one has "raadhuni" whereas punjabi one has "mustard" in stead)..I also stay outside of Kolkata, rather Bengal. So previously I used to give mustard paanch phoron. but now whenever I go home, I bring our authentic bengali paanch phoron.. and trust me, taste completly differs as the aroma changes. sometime I make it as 6 phoron (including mustard+radhuni :P ).. Also I bring wholesome radhuni, as in musur daal only radhuni can be given as phoron/tempering with mirch. R hya. amar ek bangladeshi friend er theke shikhlam "radhuni baata"/ radhuni paste er usage in rannay!! if you have anything like that please share with us.. amio interested to know j radhuni bata diye ranna.. :) thanks.. your site is always bookmarked.. bhalo thakun :)


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