Panch Phoron Brussels Sprouts


This recipe comes from nurse, nutritionist, cook, and world traveler Roshni Kavate and Alembique Apothecary owner Babak Nahid. It features panch phoron, a bittersweet and aromatic five-spice whole-seed spice blend used in Bangladesh, Eastern India, and Southern Nepal. It typically consists of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard, and fennel seeds in equal parts. These seeds are known for their rich history in Chinese, Ayurvedic, Middle Eastern, and Western herbal-healing traditions. Each exhibits antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anticarcinogenic properties.

Along with all those health benefits comes a delicious aroma and flavor. Panch phoron can be enjoyed in diverse recipes from the main meal to beverages and desserts, but its traditional uses are with vegetables, chicken or beef curry, fish, lentils, shukto, and in pickles. It is typically fried or “tempered” in vegetable oil or ghee, which causes it to immediately begin popping and release its perfume.

Alembique sells an organic panch phoron called Five Seeds Ayurvedic Seasoning Blend, which Kavate assembled using a recipe borne from her mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens. She includes radhuni seeds, which Bengalis often use instead of mustard seeds. Some Western cooks substitute the similar-tasting celery seed for radhuni.

Housed in a corner store in West Berkeley dating from the 1870s, Alembique purveys exceptional ingredients for natural health and wellness. The store offers organic herbs and spices for food and healing plus rare oils, minerals, tinctures, infusions, and extracts for crafting petrochemical-free, healing, and nourishing skin and hair care products. Learn more about herbal medicine in Medicineshed in our current issue. For more recipes using exceptional herbs and spices, email Alembique Apothecary at

Alembique’s Panch Phoron Brussels Sprouts

1 pound small or medium-sized Brussels sprouts, halved
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons panch phoron
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic, whole
Coarse Cypress flake or alder-smoked salt
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1 teaspoon orange zest

Remove discolored outer leaves and trim the bottoms of the Brussels sprouts. Cover sprouts with boiling water and a teaspoon of salt. Cook for 5 minutes until bright green. Drain well. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil, add the whole garlic cloves, and sauté until golden; add the panch phoron spice blend and red pepper flakes for another minute. Stir in the sprouts and sauté for another 4 minutes. Remove from heat, then mix in the pomegranate seeds and orange zest. Finish with coarse flaky or alder-smoked salt.

Spice up your Valentine’s Day with this bittersweet, aromatic dish.  Photo courtesy of Babak Nahid.