This little dish is really an amalgam of culinary techniques but it is very Bengali in spirit given the use of the five-spice blend, known as Panch Phoron, used for the final tempering. I actually made this as a quick side-dish for a spicy seafood curry a few days ago but I thought I reproduce it again so that you can see how it is done…
- 2 cups finely shredded Cabbage;
- 1 ½ tbsp. coarse Salt;
- 1 tsp. Panch Phoron;
- 8 small dried red Chilies;
- 4 tbsp. Vegetable Oil.
- 1 tsp. Lemon Juice.
First, toss the cabbage shreds with the salt and leave to soften and wilt for at least an hour.
When you are ready, rinse the cabbage several times in lots of water to wash away the excess salt and then squeeze dry. As you can see, the volume of the cabbage is much decreased at this point. Make sure you ‘fluff’ it up before the next step.
Bring the oil to the smoking point over a high flame and then add the Panch Phoron. As soon as the seed begin to sputter and pop, throw in the chilies and stir until they begin to darken. Be careful as they can burn very quickly and will continue to cook after you take the pan from the flame so do so just at the point that they are noticeably beginning to brown.
Quickly pour the tempering mixture over the cabbage shreds (watch out as can spit) and then add the lemon juice, tossing well. Allow to cool to room temperature and then serve.
Well, the beauty of this dish is in the simplicity. The freshness of the cabbage, along with the tangy hint of lemon, is very well complemented by the aromatic, nutty spiciness of the panch phoron (although you will probably not want to eat the chilies). It works very nicely as a side dish for curries and the like, but it also strikes me that it make a nice filling ingredient in a ‘wrap’. I’ll have to experiment with that sometime…