When U.K.-based chef Romy Gill visited the SAVEUR test kitchen a few years back, she taught us how to make and use the spice mixture, panch phoran. The blend of five whole spices—popular in Bangladesh, Nepal, and West Bengal, India—adds earthy, floral, and botanical notes to Romy’s signature turmeric-tinted chicken curry. Since then, I’ve kept a jar of the stuff in my own pantry and I’ve found myself incorporating it into poultry and vegetable dishes more than just about any other blend.
When I heard Romy was going to be back in New York promoting her new book, On the Himalayan Trail, we set a date to cook together in my apartment. In planning what I was going to make, I knew I needed to come up with a dish that spotlighted this beautiful seasoning. Our mutual friend, Nashville chef Maneet Chauhan, uses panch phoran in an incredible, sweet-and-savory tomato achaar, which she served on grilled cheese sandwiches (!!!) during a cooking class at the Charleston Wine & Food Festival. Knowing that Romy planned to make a rich and cheesy main dish, I decided to riff off the flavors in Maneet’s achaar and developed this warm tomato salad recipe.
While traditionally panch phoron is bloomed in oil or ghee, I really love the combination of tomatoes and browned butter, so I didn’t bother with clarifying the fat. That said, if you’d prefer to serve a vegan version of this dish, feel free to swap out the butter for canola or olive oil. In general, tomatoes are best stored at room temp to preserve their sweetness, and for this salad in particular, you’ll really want to be sure that you’re not starting with ingredients with any chill on them, lest the butter in the dressing seize back up. While panch phoran is easy to find in South Asian grocery stores or online, it’s also a snap to mix up a batch of your own. Find Romy’s recipe here.
- 2 lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes, at room temperature and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 6 Tbsp. salted cultured butter
- 1 Tbsp. panch phoron
- 6 medium scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
- ¼ cup champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey
- To a large, heatproof bowl, add the tomatoes and set it by the stove.
- In a small, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Continue cooking, periodically using a wooden spoon to scrape the milk solids up off the bottom of the pot, until the butter is very fragrant and the solids turn a toasty golden brown, about 5 minutes. (Don’t walk away from teh stove; the butter can burn quickly.) Remove from the heat and set aside, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter stops sizzling and cools slightly, 2–3 minutes. Add the panch phoron and stir until very fragrant and toasty, about 1 minute, then briskly stir in the scallions, vinegar, and honey. Pour the warm vinaigrette over the tomatoes and toss to coat. Serve warm.