Andhra Pradesh

When kitchens turn into a lab: people experimenting with dishes without onions

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The worst hit dish ever since the onion prices jumped is the sambar

From an alarming ₹250 a kg last week, onion prices have come to ₹130 now in Chittoor district. But a majority of the households and hoteliers retort with a brave face: "So what? Can’t we prepare delicious dishes without them (onions)?" They are even getting ready to drastically "punish" onions by adjusting with a few pieces and with alternative sources till the price stabilises in the market, which is likely by January 15, after Sankranti.

Chittoor district is known for serving dishes of both Rayalaseema and Nellore regions. In the last decade, the hotel and catering industry has grown by leaps and bounds, bringing non-vegetarian varieties of Tamil Nadu and Telangana. Undoubtedly, the ruler of these menus is onion.

The worst hit dish ever since the onion prices jumped is the sambar. Many hotels and roadside restaurants have nearly stopped items such as "sambar idli, utthapam and onion rava dosa", which are the favourites of thousands of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu visiting the shrines at Tirumala, Tirupati, Srikalahasti and Kanipakam and the Golden Temple at Vellore.

Non-veg dishes hit

It has been a almost a dismal show in several hotels serving non-vegetarian dishes. While star hotels could manage the show thanks to "hidden charges", roadside eateries and dhabas remain a worried lot. The favourite "egg burji" (made with a heavy dose of onions) has been taken off the menu in 80% of the outlets, while other dishes are charged extra, warning the customers beforehand. Several chicken and mutton varieties have lost their premier demand.

During the initial days of onion rush, the business of most outlets selling chat items witnessed not much difference, but once the price touched ₹100, it started to show the impact. Regulars to the chat units have indefinitely postponed their next visit. On the petty business front, vendors depending on "masala borugulu" (puffed rice) and bajjis and samosas are the worst hit. Unnoticed, the business of meat, poultry and fish industries witnessed upsetting fluctuations since mid-November.

Other vegetables

Ironically, the vegetable markets have started brimming with vegetables at affordable prices, except for onions. Vegetables such as brinjal, ladies finger, various gourds, carrot, cauliflower, cabbage and others, which witnessed sharp increase in prices between June and October, came to the doorsteps of the consumers at prices below the normal rate.

Since November third week, cabbage started replacing onions in kitchens at hotels and households. "Cabbage holds 40% of the acrid properties of the onions. Cut into smallest pieces, this vegetable has the power to enhance the taste of any dish. Our experiment since the onion crisis has given good results. We hope to continue," said Ganesh, an experienced cook at a popular hotel near RTC bus stand in Palamaner. Half a dozen other cooks too expressed similar ideas in Bangarupalem and Chittoor. Surreptitiously, a large number of homemakers too seemed to have opened the keys of this secret, going by the sudden spurt in the sales of cabbage in various markets.

Surveillance

Superintendent of Police (Vigilance and Enforcement) Rameshaiah attributed the sudden fall in the onion prices to "round the clock surveillance" against illegal hoarding of stocks and constantly sending reports to the State government about the functioning of the marketing and allied departments. "Compared to all districts, Chittoor is the worst hit with the lowest supplies of onions. That’s the problem," the SP added.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 8:35:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/when-kitchens-turn-into-a-lab/article30308508.ece

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