Honoring the five elements of creation, Panch Phoron is known by many names across East Asia. You’ll know it, in your creations as a game-changer for aroma, flavor, and texture.
Panch Phoron literally means “five seasonings.” It is a wonderfully aromatic whole spice blend that brings a sweet-pungent pop to all kinds of foods! It’s a different “five-spice” from its more familiar Southeast Asian cousin, Chinese Five Spice, in both the choice of spices that it uses, and the fact that it’s not ground.
This unique spice blend has been used for centuries in Bengali cuisine for a bit of aroma, flavor, and/or crunch in savory dishes, and baked breads.
Whether you’re cooking a traditional dish of Bengali, or Nepalese origin, or you’re looking for a way to add a little visual and taste pop to your Sunday brunch eggs, panch phoron brings a lot to your improvisational arsenal!
Panch phoron is a grand slam on all of the senses! The five spices that make up the blend vary a bit, from region to region, but most use: Cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, black mustard seeds, and nigella seeds.
Aromatically, the cumin’s pungence, and the fennel, and fenugreek, seeds sweet aromas balance.
The flavor is mildly savory. The nigella seeds’ mild pepper taste is a touch refreshing.
Texturally, it has a little nutty crunch, as it is consumed, like sesame seeds, or cracked pepper.
Panch Phoron is native to Bangladesh, Eastern India, and Southern Nepal. It is found in a growing number of places in the world where it has traveled with people of those cultures, but it is still a relatively new player in North American and European diets.
Panch phoron is typically “tempered,” fried in mustard oil, or ghee, to bring out the aroma.
Although the exact origins of five-spice powder are lost to history, there are monks who believe that it may have begun as a part of early Hindu ceremonial feasts, to honor the number five in the Pancha Bhoota, the five elements of creation: Fire; water; air, earth; and ether. Indians’ ancient ayurveda, the science of healing, may have used it as a medicinal. Buddhists, likewise, have a five-element origin story that the spice combo may honor in some way. That it was common to a wide region tells us, though, that it was transported as a blend over a very wide part of East Asia.
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