Panch Phoron – A Tale of Five Spices and a City

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I cant believe its already five weeks into 2014. I had been away from the blogging world for quite sometime now, and even though I wanted to write a post, I was too busy even to think about what to post. So anyways I’m back now, and have loads to share. In between my break I went to Kolkata after a long long time. As expected there are new constructions everywhere and the traffic, I just don’t want to talk about it – it seems people have gone crazier on the roads. Though I missed out on Book Fair 2014, but got to visit a lot many other fairs. And, believe it or not there was this fair, Baro bhuter mela (you can loosely transalte it to the Fair of 12 ghosts), okay actually they are not ghosts, but a group of sadhus who come to this place and stay their for a week after Sankranti. So, the crazy part of this fair was not the thousands of people in it but the free eggs. Yes, you heard it right, these sadhus worship a goddess whose the offering is duck egg. After the puja, the eggs are distributed among the locals and there are like hundreds of eggs, and thousands of people in line to get those eggs. It was crazy, but it was really fun to watch such a chaos.

Ghugni stall

When it comes of Kolkata, fish market is almost synonymous. Going to the fish market to get the morning catch was like my secret hobby. I loved the din, the mud, the dirt, the stench of the fish market and I still do. In my short stay of just over a month, I went there every day and satiated my thirst for fresh fish. From the Bong basic rohu and pabda to the oh-so-high-priced chital and pomfret – I had them all.


When you visit your own city after more than a year, a mere 3 weeks seems too short. In my list of things to eat and visit while in Kolkata included phuchka (ofcourse, thats the first thing in the list), biryani from Arsalan, kulfi fron the sidewalks of New market, dahi vada from the old shop in Dakhinapan, and there were many more, but I could get time for only few of these. Though my list didn’t include not a single purely Bengali dish, that list was fulfilled by mom – from the very first day I landed she started cooked by favorites, sabji diye macher jhol to the mom special mutton curry. And, of course as it was winter time, there was the choice of patali gur or jhola gur and the plethora of different pithe.

Jaynagorer mowa

Talking about Bengali food, sometime back a non-Bong friend of mine asked do you always add panch phoron (five spices) to every recipe? Now this was a simple question, even though panch phoron is used only in Bengali and Odiya recipes, we don’t use it everywhere. I am sure many of my Bengali readers also think the same, so I thought I would just write a few lines about panch phoron. Check out more photos in the Flickr photostream.

Panch Phoron

Panch phoron or five spices is a mixture of five different whole spices – cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard and nigella in same proportions. In some places the mustard is replaced with wild celery or radhuni, but I prefer black mustar. So, if you want to prepare your own jar of panch phoron all you have to do is add all the five spices in equal proportions and keep it in a air tight container.

Panch phoron is mainly used in vegetarian recipe, and my favorite with panch phoron is a very quick recipe. Heat the oil in a wok, add a teaspoon on panch phoron and add in five different vegetables – potatoes, carrot, beans, raddish and caulilower, stir fry for a couple of minutes, add ginger paste, a couple of slithered green chilies and season with salt. Cook covered till the vegetables are done. You can add a few chopped cilantro as garnish. The five different spices with their distinct taste and aroma gives a pleasant feel to the dish.

Panch Phoron

Distinctively Bengali, this mix of five spices, is one of the many reasons why Bengali cuisine retains its own unique place.

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