Panch phoron is a colorful mixture of five whole spices used in Bengali (East Indian) cuisine. It has a bittersweet flavor and traditionally includes the following five seeds: cumin, black mustard seed, fenugreek, fennel and nigella in relatively equal proportions. Alternatively, you’ll find that sometimes black sesame seed replaces the hard-to-find nigella seed.

Unlike most spice blends, panch phoron is always used whole and never ground. Heat ghee or cooking oil with panch phoron until the seeds pop and become fragrant. This process, known as “tempering,” releases the blend’s powerful aroma. Add veggies or meat to the pan or transfer the mixture to another dish. Panch phoron enhances the flavor of chicken or beef curry, roasted potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and works especially well in dals.

Have you cooked with this spice blend yet? What are some of your favorite applications or recipes?

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