This post is a short and spontaneous post, but a deep and sensitive one featuring panchphoron my favorite spice blend – yes, panchphoron – the Bengali Five Spice Blend, the one that my (award winning, ha, ha had to stick that in) debut cookbook, The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles was named after…
What’s with panchphonron?… enough, except that for 19 plus years of my life I would have been able answer that question..
At the cusp of graduating Business school, my mother visited me. She used to cook more back then, and at 20 something, grateful that mom was cooking or rather finishing off my cooking. I led her to a stovetop that was my dorm kitchen, and left her to fend for herself.
Ma, because she was a Bengali mother, had brought a spice or two. I had made a whole and simple meal of chicken, and dal, that was not yet tempered… or as mom would tell me,kono phoron dayo ni…
Phoron aka tempering is at the heart of Bengali cooking, certainly for lentils but beyond…It is added as an essential seasoning spice, for finishing other dishes as well.. Before, I could register many things, talk to mom, suddenly the air was filled with the scents of childhood, the magic of comfort and something that I had missed for many weeks. Yes, mom had indeed brought with her Panchphoron or the Bengali Five Spice Blend and was using it to temper that dal that so needed her love and the touch of whole spices.
As the scent of nigella and cumin danced into a beautiful tango with the fennel and fenugreek, while the mustard crackled in an authoritative tone, my eyes moistened and the scents of childhood came home.
It is in the harmony of those spice and then so much, I wrote the Bengali 5 Spice Chronicles and I hope you will someday get a copy and tell me what you thought.
A basic recipe for panchphoron or the Bengali 5 spice blend.
- 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole nigella seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole fenugreek sees
- Mix the seeds carefully until well mixed.
- Store the spices as needed in a cool dry space, and use as needed where panchphoron is needed.