Tomayto, tomahto: What alternatives are you using? - Hindustan Times
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Tomayto, tomahto: What alternatives are you using?

ByRuchika Garg, New Delhi
Jul 17, 2023 03:39 PM IST

Due to the price hike, the restaurants across India, struggling to procure the ingredient, have either cut down on usage or switched to alternatives.

With the supply of tomatoes dipping due to crop damage, its price has gone from 120 to 180 per kg. Restaurants across India, struggling to procure the ingredient, have either cut down on usage or switched to alternatives. McDonald’s India (North and East) recently announced that they have removed tomatoes from their recipes for the time being due to not being able to find quality tomatoes. “As a brand committed to the highest standards of food quality and safety, we use ingredients only after rigorous food quality and safety checks. However, due to seasonal issues and despite our best efforts, we are not able to procure tomatoes that pass our world-class, stringent quality checks,” says their recent statement.

Restaurants are using tomato puree, curd, tamarind and other substitutes for tomato (Photo: Shutterstock)
Restaurants are using tomato puree, curd, tamarind and other substitutes for tomato (Photo: Shutterstock)

Many have replaced tomatoes with ingredients such as curd, tamarind, canned tomatoes, packed tomato juices and purées. Preetam Rana, chef at Connaught Club House, New Delhi, says, “We’re preparing gravies for butter chicken and paneer makhani using pumpkin, lemon and tamarind. We have reduced the usage of tomatoes by 75%.”

Likewise, chef Nishant Choubey of Sattvik in New Delhi is using canned tomatoes “for all tomato-based dishes, right from paneer makhani to dal makhani and rasam”.

In Mumbai, where tomato prices are between 140 and to 160 per kg, eateries are forced to tweak recipes. Parikshit Joshi, executive chef at Someplace Else, Mumbai, says, “We are not serving tomato soup and salads anymore. Since the prices won’t be coming down soon, we have switched to packaged tomato juices for recipes like butter chicken and penne arrabbiata.”

Those who continue using tomatoes are suffering losses. Mohd Asif, one of the owners of Al Jawahar Restaurant, Old Delhi, says, “Most of our dishes are prepared with tomato curries. We are bearing loss but we won’t compromise on the flavours.” Pallavii Gupta from The Kind Roastery and Brewroom Cafe, Bengaluru, too, continues using tomatoes in her menu. “While the inflation has started affecting our operational costs, we want to provide our customers the same culinary experiences,” she reasons.

Substitutes one can use at home

A few alternatives can replace tomato to a large extent, without affecting the flavours of the dish. Chef Reetu Uday Kugaji shares substitutes that can elevate a dish to the required sourness and sweetness and also act as thickening agents:

Tamarind: Soak it in warm water for an hour. Sieve out the impurities and use the liquid in your vegetable gravies to add sourness. It goes best with dals, curries and stir-fries.

Curd: Simply stir the yoghurt thoroughly and add it at the end of the cooking process to limit the possibility of it breaking. Goes best with rajma, chhole and biryanis.

Indian gooseberries (amla): Grate these raw berries and use them with dry preparations such as mix veg, aloo zeera and the like.

Raw mango: Peel off the raw mango and grate it carefully. It could be used in any veggie to add some sourness. Even the seed can be used by adding it in the curry during preparation.

Inputs by chef Reetu Uday Kugaji

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