Phoron is the Bengali version of masala, or mix of spices used in Bengali recipes. While there might be a specific phoron for a particular dish, the exact mix may vary with the season, the weather, the meal composition and the mood of the cook.
Panch Phoron is a well known phoron and is composed of 5 different spices. It is a classic Bengali spice mix, and it can also be called many names – panch phoron, pancha phoran, panch phora, panch puran, panchpuran, punch puram, punchpuram.
Panch Phoron can be thought of as the Indian version of the Chinese Five Spice Powder, and is highly aromatic and very common in Bengali cuisine. Panch Phoron can vary in composition, according to the region of Bengal and the dish it is being used in.
Panch means five, and Phoron means spice. It typically consists of five spices in equal proportions: Fenugreek (methi), Kalonji (nigella seed), mustard seeds (rai), sweet fennel (saunf) or anise seeds, and cumin Seed (Jeera). It is not a hot spice mix. Recipes do vary, and it is also good to make your own blend as commercial spice mixes always favour the cheaper spices and use less of the more expensive spices. The spices are mixed but kept whole until needed, and then used either whole or ground. They are usually roasted of sauteed in oil before use.
Did you know that when Panch Phoron is toasted or fried in ghee, it is a great topping for a salad and other dishes.
A Typical Panch Phoron Recipe
1 Tblspn brown or black mustard seeds, 1 Tblspn fennel seeds, 1 Tblspns cumin seeds, 1 Tblspn nigella seeds, 1 Tblspn fenugreek seeds
Mix the spices and keep in a sealed jar or airtight container. Grind only what is needed to preserve the flavours.