Ever since cooking through Indian Vegetarian Feast, we've been inspired to add a tablespoon of panch phoron to everything from sautéed broccoli to a pot of beans or a jar of refrigerator pickles. This five spice mix is so easy to make yet adds tremendous flavor and aroma to Bengali dishes and anything else you can think of.
Most spice mixes are ground, and depending on how many spices constitute the blend, you might be running your spice grinder or pounding your mortar and pestle for a very long time! This one is simple: just five spices, used whole. While there are some variations, the spices in Bengali panch phoron are generally cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, and nigella (also known as kalonji) seeds. (All of these should be available at Indian markets and good spice shops.)
Mix together an equal quantity of each spice and store in an airtight container. To use panch phoron, fry the spices in oil or ghee until they "pop" — this releases the aroma and bittersweet, anise-y flavor of the blend. Add your vegetables or meat to the pan, or simply toss the panch phoron into other dishes. I like using a tablespoon or so of panch phoron with broccoli, cauliflower, roasted potatoes, and lentils. To use in pickles, I simply toast the spices in a dry pan without oil.
(Images: Emily Han)