Snap Peas and Potatoes with Panch Phoron

One of the highlights of the farm we have a CSA share with—the excellent Open Hands—is their U-Pick program which allows members to pick a number of crops for themselves over the course of the growing season. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos and herbs are some of the highlights, and early in the season so are peas. We get shelling peas as well as sugar snap peas. It’s a fleeting window but a tasty one. We recently picked a fair bit of sugar snaps and to use them up one of the things I made with them this week was this dish that falls in the general Bengali genre of the chenchki: a simple prep that involves at the least mustard oil, panch phoron (or just kalonji/nigella), turmeric, red chillies and a vegetable. You stir-fry the veg and then cover the pan and let it finish cooking either in its own moisture or with the help of a little bit of water. Ginger and green chillies are often added as well but I decided to leave them out so as to feature these lovely sweet pea pods more clearly. I did add some potatoes for contrast.

The more traditional green legume for in Bengali cooking is sheem which is, I think, the hyacinth bean; but in practice snow peas are commonly substitutable—in fact when visiting us my parents make no distinction between the two. And sugar snaps are just another remove or so away. At any rate, they work well here. If you have hyacinth beans or snow peas, by all means use those instead.


  • 2 lbs sugar snap peas, trimmed and strings removed
  • 1 lb potatoes, diced (I leave them unpeeled)
  • 1 tspn panch phoron
  • 2-4 dried red chillies broken in two
  • 1/2 tspn haldi
  • 2-4 tblspns of mustard oil
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Heat the mustard oil to just smoking and reduce the heat to medium.
  2. Send the panch phoron for a brief swim in the oil.
  3. As soon as the seeds become fragrant (20-30 seconds) add the dried chillies.
  4. As soon as the chillies become glossy but before they darken too much add the potatoes and mix in thoroughly.
  5. Add the haldi and salt and stir-fry the potatoes till almost completely done.
  6. Add the pea pods and mix in thoroughly.
  7. Stir-fry everything together for another 5 minutes or so.
  8. Add water as needed to keep it from sticking too much, mix in, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook till the potatoes are fully done.
  9. Serve with dal and rice or chapatis.


  1. Mustard oil is best but if you don’t have any use grapeseed or another oil with a high smoke point.
  2. You could certainly reduce the amount of peas to a 1:1 ratio with the potatoes—I just had a lot of peas to use up.
  3. You could also try this with just kalonji/nigella instead of panch phoron (of which kalonji is part).

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