Give me five!


Kandla Nijhowne

Indian spices are oh so aromatic! A popular blend called panch phoran has five such magical ingredients in equal quantities – fennel, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds and nigella. This blend is widely used in Bengal, Nepal and Bangladesh. They are used whole, never ground and impart a superb aroma to any meal. Here’s a chicken recipe which highlights the famous five!

Murgh Panch-Phoran The ingredients 

500 gm chicken joints

2 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp cloves and peppercorns

2 medium sized onions, thinly sliced

4 green cardamoms

1 tbsp each, chopped ginger and garlic

1¼ tbsp panch phoran

2-3 each, bay leaves and green chilies

½-¾ tsp chili powder

½ cup yogurt


  • Heat up 1½ tbsp ghee in a heavy wok and splutter the panch phoran mix.
  • Add onions, followed by cardamoms, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and chopped chilies.
  • Fry till the onions get tinged and brownish, then stir in the ginger and garlic. Cook further for 3-4 minutes and then remove from the wok.
  • Add the remaining ghee and the chicken pieces to the wok and roast well with the chili powder.
  • When the onion and spice mixture is cool, blend in a liquidizer till smooth.
  • Tip the fragrant sauce on to the browned chicken joints. Stir well to coat the chicken and cook for another 10-12 minutes.
  • Add the yogurt and a little water if needed and simmer for another five minutes.
  • Serve hot with paranthas, chapattis or rice.

Note: You can cook a delicious potato bhaji or a mixed veggie too, using this method. When the panch phoran is scattered into the ghee, it needs to be monitored carefully. If it overcooks it will burn and turn bitter and unsavoury. You must keep the next batch of ingredients ready to be dropped in just as soon as the seeds splutter and turn colour. Many recipes call for additional garam masala. I personally feel it is unnecessary. Almost every component already exists on our list!  

(Nijhowne is a Chandigarh-based culinary expert)

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