Tomato Trouble Drives Menus Awry - The New Indian Express

Tomato Trouble Drives Menus Awry

Published: 30th July 2014 07:35 AM

Last Updated: 30th July 2014 09:06 AM

CHENNAI: Tomatoes are on a quick vanishing act in the hotels in the city. As the price is on a skyrocketing mode, hotels find themselves pushing the red vegetable out of their menu cards. From a suspension on everything from tomato chutney to tomato rice, the victims of the tomato price shock are many and varied.

“Due to the increase in price of tomatoes, we have temporarily stopped serving tomato chutney,” runs the notice put up on one of the restaurants of the Hot Chips chains (see pic) in the city. The chain is not alone in parting with the chutney. The Saravana Bhavan in Egmore has replaced their tomato chutney with onion, Tur and other alternative chutneys.

The pinch is even harsher on road side eateries, many of which have now stopped serving tomato rice. “If we need to sell tomato rice we have to sell it at more than 20 rupees. Compared to the normal `12 or `15 we sell it at, it’s a lot. So we have decided not to sell it at all,” says Suganthi, who runs a food stall near the Guindy Industrial Estate. “For us, that `7 increase for lunch is a lot,” pointed out Rajesh, who works at the Guindy industrial estate.

Those that are still sticking to their menus meanwhile are now going all out to cut down on wastage. Parvathy Bhavan at Saligramam did not make any changes to their menu and continues to serve tomato chutney for dishes like idli and dosas. However, with the price rise tightening their investments, manager K Balakrishnan says, “Earlier, we used to make tomato chutneys in large quantities and some would get wasted at the end of the day. But now, we make them in small quantities as and when required and make sure nothing gets wasted.” But for some hotels, tomatoes play too crucial a part to be able to take it off their kitchens. The Jain Chat shops are one of those to face the biggest pinch. “Tomato and cucumber are the main ingredients in Jain chats. In some foods, like Jain Pav Bhaji, more than half of the dish consists of tomato. Since the prices have climbed up this month, tomato prices have gone up from `20 to `25 to `65 to `75. If this goes on for more a couple of weeks, we will have to increase the prices,” said Keshav Mundra, who runs the Chatpatta Chat shop in Vepery.

Meanwhile, some shops have gone in for some creative ways to keep a check on their costs without cutting down on their dishes. At a popular Udipi hotel in Nanganallur, the proprietors said, “When drumsticks were costly, we used radish and brinjal which were way cheaper to prepare sambhar. When potato prices went up, we used cabbage to make poriyal,” said the proprietor of the shop. On Tuesday, the hotel had reduced the tomato in their sambhar by increasing on the radish.

The use of the country tomato to replace the ordinary variety is another option. This variety is often squishy and gets damaged easily. But while the prices of the ordinary variety have touched `80 in some parts of the city, this variety is still available at around `40. “We use slightly squished tomatoes which is much cheaper, especially when you buy it in bulk. It doesn’t affect business as they are anyway squeezed to add in pav bhaji and in other chat items.” says an employee at the Kolkata chat shop, RA Puram.

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