With the price of onion all set to soar to a new high in a day or two, and with restaurants and domestic kitchens rationing the vegetable, Indian cuisine, so dependent on the tear-inducing bulb is threatening to go insipid.
The Bhatkali and Mapilla Biriyani, which get their unique aroma from onions, seem destined to be less tasty for some time to come, and onion uthappam, the popular snack at eateries, is set to vanish from the menus of veg restaurants.
To cope with the steep hike of price of allium cepa, as the Latins knew it, non-veg restaurants are serving their kababs and tikkas without the usual accompaniment of onion rings. Chutneys that go with idlis and dosas are made without onions. The worst-hit is the spicy Mangalorean chicken and fish curries, which require generous portions of onions.
“If anybody wanted to sabotage Indian cuisine to popularise the bland western cuisine, hiking prices of onions is the way. Without the usual, generous use of onions, Indian cooking has lost its mojo. If the price of onions keep going up like this, American and European food chains that were setting up shops in India and wanted to sway the youngsters away from Indian cuisine, have nothing to fear,” said Shantaram Shenoy, who owns a popular restaurant in Mangalore.
Not many are seeing such apocalyptic visions.
“Indian tamarind used to sell so well in supermarkets of Dubai and Oman when suddenly there was a price rise, and the commodity went off the shelves. But then a Mumbai-based company introduced tamarind puree in tetra packs and the market for the new product stabilised. Tamarind returned to the shelves after some time, but by then consumers found tamarind puree in tetra packs convenient. Looks like some influential industrialist is planning to introduce processed onion juice or paste. Otherwise, there is no reason for the price hike,” said Ibrahim, an onion trader.
Most upset are the tipplers who frequent taverns that used to serve them free salad with lots of onions. “Customers want something pungent when they have a quick drink at the wine stores, so we used to give them Kachchambri (a mix of onions, cucumber and green chillies), but we had to withdraw onions from the salad. Now, there are regular arguments between my waiters and the customers,” says Ramesh Shetty, a tavern owner.