As Indians, we have all grown up with spices in our lives- in our day to day cooking and sometimes, even for medicinal uses. Food without spices are not even considered edible and it need not be a whole medley of spices, even a single spice can sometime elevate any dish. While the rest of the country uses mostly powdered spices in their cooking and have a variety of spice mixes, we Bongs go with the whole spices for tempering first in the oil and then adding the vegetables or the protein and finally adding the powdered spices (if at all) and slow cooking the masalas along with the vegetables or proteins.
Bengali food is distinguished by the use of the tempering spices and there are various combinations which go with different kinds of preparations. So for a dalna torkari, usually cumin with dry red chillies is used for tempering, whereas for chicken or mutton, there is always the use of whole garam masala in the oil. By whole garam masala- the Bengali version uses only green cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Some vegetables see the use of nigella seeds with green chillies and are quite often used even for a basic simple fish curry. Not to forget, the quintessential Panch Phoron which is imbibed in the taste bud of every Bengali and I think the whole country characterises Bengali food with Panch Phoron.
Panch phoron- a simple spice mix of 5 spices. Equal quantities of cumin seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, black mustard seeds and little less fenugreek seeds makes this extremely powerful yet elevating spice mix. Lot of people use radhuni in place of mustard but since radhuni is not always available, black mustard seed is used.
The most common dish which every Bengali household including mine makes with panchphoron is called panch mishali torkari. Yes, you heard it right, ‘panch’ as in 5, ‘mishali’ as in medley and ‘torkari’ as in vegetables. The vegetable basket is always used in such a fashion that a little bit from every vegetable is kept aside for this dish.
As a child, I used to abhor this dish. I knew, for dinner, every once in a while it would be panch mishali torkari with roti and my mother would have to make a special dessert so that I would eat it. Thankfully, my son is just the opposite. He loves his vegetables and has no qualms about eating any, even if the panch torkari. Once I grew up and my taste buds developed, I understood how a simple vegetable dish can be made so flavourful with panch phoron. And today, it is my go to dish on any given day.
We are celebrating #masaladay today which is a part of series of celebration of Indian food days round the year. You can read about it here . Rushina Munshaw Ghidiyal an accomplished cook, owner of APB cook studio has come up with this wonderful initiative. We are sharing our stories, why not you too?