Pork Roast with Bengali Five Spice Blend (Panch Phoron)

Most of you probably know garam masala, but have you ever heard of panch phoron? During my recent web browsing I stumbled more and more often at this mysterious Bengali blend of spices. The day I decided to taste it, I realised I had all the necessary ingredients, so it took me five minutes to make my own panch phoron and get ready to cook. I prepared one Bengali recipe, several days later another, then another… and now I’m so hooked on this mixture of aromatic seeds, I started my own experiments, such as this pork roast. Apart from my usual powdered roasting rub (powdered garlic, turmeric and chilli), I added a generous amount of panch phoron, mixed everything with oil and basted the meat, hoping it would create a spicy crust on top. The roast did end up with a nice crunchy texture and a wonderful array of addictive flavours. It was perfect in wraps with my homemade chapatti.

Phanch phoron (“five spices”) is a Bengali mixture of five seeds: fennel, nigella (black onion/kalonji), black mustard, cumin and fenugreek. All the seeds are whole and used usually at the beginning of a cooking process, stir-fried in oil until they start to pop (it’s called “tempering”), before other ingredients are added. I have also seen tempered panch phoron used as a “topping” (added just before serving). Some web sources use an equal amount of each and some advise adding an equal amount of everything apart from fenugreek. I have opted for the latter because I know that fenugreek can easily overwhelm any dish and any other spice. Therefore this is what my very first panch phoron looked like:
-2 teaspoons fennel seeds
-2 teaspoons cumin seeds
-2 teaspoons nigella seeds
-2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
-1 teaspoon fenugreek

Apparently some Bengali cooks using radhuni seeds instead of mustard seeds, but the huge majority of Indian blogs and websites call for mustard seeds, so I didn’t bother checking this other version (but maybe one day… if I find radhuni…).

All the spices are easily available in every Indian/Pakistani grocery shop and of course online (I bet one can buy all the seeds on Amazon too). All of them are regularly used, ground or not, in Indian dishes, they keep their freshness for quite a long time (unless ground), so if you cook or intend to cook Indian, it’s a wise investment.

TIPS: This lean pork loin roast is treated rather like a cold meat, so you will probably find it too dry if eaten hot as a part fo a Western-style meal. I advise using a fatter cut (such as shoulder) or tenderloin instead if you want a juicier result. Personally I don’t mind if pork roast is a bit dry (not too dry of course!), so I often bake loin anyway.

I have a very old oven, so you might want to adjust the roasting time according to yours. I start with high temperature and never reduce it because I like the results: I have noticed the crust forms quicker and the meat is less dry inside.

The pork should be at room temperature at the moment you put it into the oven, so make sure you take it out of the fridge early enough.

Preparation: about 50 minutes

Ingredients (serves four-five, if used in wraps or sandwiches):

600 g (bout 21 oz) pork roast (I have used the lean loin, but you can use any cut you like)


1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons chilli powder (or more, depending on the chilli powder and your heat resistance)

1 teaspoon powdered garlic (see the super easy home recipe here)

5-6 teaspoons of panch phoron (see the recipe above)

4 tablespoons oil (I have used coconut fat but any high heat resistant fat can be used)

Preheat the oven to 210°C (410°F).

Take out the pork out of the fridge, wash it, pat dry and season the with salt.

Make a mixture of oil and all the spices (turmeric, garlic, chilli powder and phaanch phoron).

Put the pork into a baking dish and rub with the spice and oil mixture (you can use a brush to do it).

Bake at 210°C for 40 minutes (make sure it’s no longer fridge-cold at the moment you put it into the oven).

Ten minutes before the end, take out the baking dish and baste the top of the roast with some of the spicy oil you will see at the bottom of the dish.

Put back to the oven for ten more minutes.

Serve sliced in wraps (it’s fabulous with Indian chapatti!) or in sandwiches.

19 Replies to “Pork Roast with Bengali Five Spice Blend (Panch Phoron)”

  1. Thank you for the introduction to such an intriguing blend of spices. I’ve never used nigella seeds or black mustard seeds so I must put them on my list for my next trip to the Indian grocery store to check out if they have them. I bet that pork roast was very flavourful.

  2. What an intriguing spice mixture—your pork looks splendid!! And I bet the flavors were lovely.

    I just popped over b/c I saw on Eva’s blog that you live in Switzerland—for some reason I thought you lived in one of the Scandinavian countries! Anyway, we are flying into Zurich next Monday with the whole family. We’ll also visit Lucerne, Interlaken and Zermatt. I’m not sure we’ll be in your vicinity at all, but please let me know we will be. I’d love to say hello in person. If not, it was nice to reconnect via your blog 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, Liz and welcome back! Nice to see you again. Unfortunately, from what you say, you will stay in the German-speaking part of Switzerland and I live in the French-speaking part, closer to the French border… at the other side of the country. If you come anywhere near the French border, let me know! I’d love to see you of course! (And if by chance I have a trip to the German-speaking part next week, I’ll let you know!). Have a wonderful time in Switzerland! Do not hesitate to write if you need any help. (Though, unfortunately, apart from Zurich, I’ve never been to the cities you plan to visit).

      1. Darn it! Thanks for letting me know. I would have felt terrible had I been close to where you live without reaching out. Have a terrific week!!!

  3. That baked-on spice rub on top of the pork is what’s really catching my attention. I am drooling just by staring at it. The pork looks very irresistible. Have a great week ahead, Sissi. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Ray. I was sure it looked awful… but it was so good, I had to post it! (All my roasts look awful and messy anyway!).

  4. I can just imagine all the wonderful flavor this pork has to have. Sissi, have you ever tried brining your pork before cooking. It really does make a difference in how moist your pork will be. Food for thought. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Karen. And thanks a lot for the tip! I’ve heard about brining meat but never tried it… I’ll ask you next time for advice because I make pork roast very often!

  5. Have never heard of panch phoron but I do love the seed combination and being a fan of spice mixes, I’ll have to give this mix a try. Glad to read that a pork tenderloin would work for this because I have two of them in the freezer. That crisp you achieve on the pork is perfect and, from my experience, is hard to do without turning the pork into cardboard. When it comes to pork, I’m a stickler for a meat thermometer so I’m assuming a temp of around 150F is what you might be going for here?, unless you want it dryer for sandwiches as you mentioned. As an entree or for sandwiches, this is a very flavorful dish!

    1. Hi MJ, as you see it sounds very unusual, but many people have all the ingredients in their cupboards! I must say I love it so much, I’ve already put it into 10 different Indian dishes…. which normally don’t require this spice mixture.
      I must admit I never roast lean pork loin to eat it as a “meal meat”, only for sandwiches, wraps, etc. so as a kind cold cuts… so a relative dryness is not a problem. I used to bake pork loin at lower temperature (180°C) after a quick searing on a frying pan to “seal the juices”, but I realised that if I set the oven to a very high temperature (210°C), the result is very similar and I’ve been doing it this way for quite a long time: the juices are sealed quite quickly and then it just depends how crisp you want the outer side to be…
      Karen has advised brining the meat before and I think I must try it one day.

  6. This looks amazing Sissi! I love the sound of the spice combination, and it’s a change from the Chinese five spice that I’m more familiar with. Thanks so much for opening my eyes to new flavours as usual xx

    1. Thank you so much, Shu!!! So nice to see you once more! I have always associated five spice with Chinese cuisine, so it was also a big surprise for me….

  7. I’ve never heard of ponch phoron, but I have all the necessary spices at home as well. 🙂 I haven’t had pork roast in ages, it would be nice to have spiced like that.

    1. Thanks Adina. This is what I’ve suspected…. people who cook with spices have all the necessary ingredients!

  8. I recently used up my last batch of garam masala and need to make another batch. This spice blend is completely new to me and I’d make it in an instant but I don’t have a few of the ingredients, but they are going on my list for sure! The pork looks amazing and I bet the house smelled wonderful as it was roasting.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I think the nice thing with this spice mixture is that you can use the spices in other ethnic cuisines and also in Western dishes, so even if you buy spices in big batches, they won’t be wasted! (For example I often add fennel seeds to my standard pork rub and also to ground pork.)

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