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Karnataka residents turn to alternatives as tomato prices skyrocket

The fruit is integral to balance out the grainy taste of the masalas used, making the dishes taste more cohesive.
Last Updated : 12 July 2023, 10:34 IST

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Many are switching from the whole fruit to canned puree as tomato prices rise. Credit: iStock Photo
Many are switching from the whole fruit to canned puree as tomato prices rise. Credit: iStock Photo
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Tamarind is also a flavour substitute for tomatoes. Credit: iStock Photo
Tamarind is also a flavour substitute for tomatoes. Credit: iStock Photo
Amchur or mango powder is yet another alternative which can be used instead of tomatoes. Credit: iStock Photo
Amchur or mango powder is yet another alternative which can be used instead of tomatoes. Credit: iStock Photo
While capsicum or bell peppers can't substitute the taste of tomatoes, they can be used to add the red colour to dishes. Credit: iStock
While capsicum or bell peppers can't substitute the taste of tomatoes, they can be used to add the red colour to dishes. Credit: iStock

With tomato price hovering between Rs 90 and Rs 120 per kg, residents of Karnataka have taken to reducing the amount of tomatoes used in dishes, using tamarind or amchur powder as a flavour substitute and switching from the whole fruit to canned puree. The price of tamarind is approximately Rs 40 per 100 grams and packaged tomato puree is available at Rs 30 for around 200 grams.

The vegetable bill in Madhu’s household has almost doubled this past month. This has proved particularly taxing since the family makes a living through a security position at an apartment. “All of our dishes require the use of tomatoes. From Rs 1,500 per month, we are spending Rs 3,000,” she says.

From kaal saaru to rasam, most recipes that Kaveramma has learned and mastered over time, too, required the use of tomatoes. To make ends meet, Kaveramma, a pourakarmika in Bengaluru, explains, “In recipes that call for 3-4 fruits, we are using only one. This has affected the taste of the dish but we have to manage costs somehow,” she says.

The fruit is integral to balance out the grainy taste of the masalas used, making the dishes taste more cohesive. The absence has presented an interesting culinary and financial conundrum to people.

Stuck in this conundrum, Bengaluru-based engineer Ishan S found a pre-packaged tomato puree on many grocery sites that offer home delivery. “The cost of the puree is Rs 30, and I use it to improve the texture of the dishes. To add the tangy taste of tomatoes, I use one tomato,” he says.

“Even the prices of onions have gone up. Ginger costs Rs 400 per kilo. The price increase of tomatoes is just masking the situation,” explains Sunain D, an architect. Bothered by the price rise, many vegetable vendors have also stopped stocking expensive ingredients.

The vegetable cart that frequents her locality has stopped stocking tomatoes, onions and ginger among some ingredients.

Another easy flavour substitute is to use amchur powder or soaked tamarind. “These alternatives are also easy on the pocket because only a small quantity can be used to provide a tanginess to the dish,” says Nadia, a resident of the city.

Some neighbourhood chaat vendors have even started charging extra for fare that use tomato as the main ingredient. “I was curious to try tomato slice (a chaat available at bhel puri stands). The vendor was very clear about charging extra. I paid Rs 10 on top of the normal charge for the chaat,” explains Bharath Surendra, a product designer who has a fondness for street food. He adds that such additional costs are only to be expected when the price of tomatoes have skyrocketed.

"I have stopped using tomato in the bhel puri and other dishes that require it," says Pankaj Kumar, a street vendor in Indiranagar.

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Published 12 July 2023, 06:26 IST

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