Who moved my onion?

Aug 14, 2013, 00:38 IST | Richa Pinto, Iram Siddique and Neha Tripathi

With cost of onions per kilo inching towards the Rs 100 mark, MiD DAY travels across the city and finds that many small eateries have removed the tear-jerking vegetable from their dishes, or increased the cost of dishes

With onion prices touching an all time high, don’t be surprised if your favourite local eatery or roadside stall has increased the price of your favourite dish, or worse, even cut out onions from the dishes altogether in the last few days.

With onion prices increasing from Rs 60 to Rs 65-70 in the retail market yesterday, owners and hoteliers have been feeling the pinch of the onion price rise and have been either cutting out onion from their dishes or increasing the prices of their food in order to make up for their losses.

Niranajan Shetty, chairman of Association of Hotel’s and Restaurants (AAHAR), under which 8,000 eateries are registered, said, “If the prices of onions continue to increase, we will be forced to increase the prices of dishes on our menu.”

MiD DAY visited ten eateries in the city and carried out a reality check on how the places are coping with the price rise. This is what we found:

Nanda Hotel, Ranade Road, Dadar
Owing to the rise in onion prices, the hotel’s management has decided to stop providing extra onions along with their pav bhaji.

One of the managers said that they required 25-30 kg of onions on a daily basis. “However, we will soon be taking a call to cut the quantity of onions we buy,” said a manager of the hotel.

Sai Krupa Stall, Dadar (West)
At this stall, not only has the owner stopped selling onion bhajias but has also stopped using it in misal pav.

Raju Gowda, owner of the stall, said he continued to bear the losses for a long time, but with the price skyrocketing on Saturday, he realised it was no longer beneficial and cut onions out of his menu.

Mumbadevi Restaurant, Lower Parel
At this little eatery located near the station, price of a plate of onion bhajias had increased from Rs 20 to 30 on Tuesday. Besides, missal pav was being served with just a light sprinkle of onions.

The management at the hotel explained that they could not afford selling items at the old prices, considering the cost of onions had risen so drastically in the recent past.

Jai Hind hotel, Lower Parel
This popular joint had many grumbling customers as the hotel had stopped serving onions with their spicy missal.

Chetan Rane, a customer said, “Missal is not complete without onions. But with the cost of onions on the rise, we can’t expect hotels to serve them to us in huge quantities.”

Chai Shai, Sector 29, Vashi
The restaurant, which uses onions in copious amounts, said they were definitely feeling the pinch.

Kanchan Todi Roy said their profits were definitely being affected. “We are certainly spending more owing to the price rise.”

Prem Sagar stall, Girgaum
In this tiny but popular joint, customers have to fork out an additional Rs 10 for a plate of pav bhaji, all thanks to the ever-increasing costs of onions. “First I would charge customers Rs 50, but now I have to charge Rs 60 to make ends meet,” said Dheer Singh, the owner of the stall.

And don’t expect that additional Rs 10 to get you more onions on the plate. The amount of onions being used has been slashed radically. “Thankfully, I haven’t received much complaints,” added Dheer.

Jayshree Fast Food, outside Hinduja College,  Charni Road
Here, onions have been replaced with radishes. Besides, they have also started asking customers to fork out more money for dishes having more onions in them. However, this hasn’t gone down the throats of customers too well, who have been griping but without much comfort as the owner says there is little that can be done about it.

APMC’s take
Traders at the APMC market said that the rise in price of onions is owing to last year’s inadequate rainfall. “We are hoping that the prices don’t increase anymore,” said Ashok Walunj, director of the APMC market.

Kumbhar stall, Dadar
The stall owner has stopped selling onion bhajias ever since the onion prices started to rise. “When the prices of onions hit Rs 40 on Friday, I stopped selling the onion bhajias as I could not accommodate it in my budget.

At first, I would sell a plate at Rs 20 but now, it’s not a viable option as the price of onions in the market is Rs 65,” said Kashiram Kumbhar, the owner of the stall.

Masala papad stall, Opera House
The cost of a simple pleasure such as masala papad, which normally contains nice chunks of onion, has increased.

Since the past few days, the stall owner Lakhan Yadav has increased the cost of the masala papad from Rs 25 to Rs 30.

Snack stall, near Saifee Hospital
Here too, we found that the stall had stopped making onion bhajias. Justifying the same, Laxman Shetty said that one kg of onions lets them make five bhajji pav costing Rs 10 each.

“With onions costing Rs 60 a kg, we don’t make a profit and Rs 10 a plate is a complete loss for us,” said Shetty.

Aam Aadmi speaks
And it’s not just the hoteliers who are feeling the pinch. The common man already burdened with rising costs of other essentials, now also has to shoulder the burden of increasing costs of onions. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Where earlier I required two kg of onions a week, for the last two weeks I have only been purchasing one kg keeping in mind the costs. Fortunately, onions are not required much during Shravan but it is still difficult to remove onions altogether from the food.
-- Sanika Gawde, Vashi resident

I was planning on making my son’s favourite pizza with onions as garnish. But with the prices of onions so high, I have thought against it.
-- Veena Joshi, Navi Mumbai resident

What are chefs doing?
Hari Kotian, owner of DP’s restaurant in Matunga, known for its pav bhaji and masala pav says, “Instead of onions as an accompaniment we could use radish or chopped tomatoes as a substitute.

Though we haven’t had to resort to that. Usually when the prices go up we just wait for them to come back to normal and bear the brunt, as we aren’t an eatery opposite a railway station where one would have a floating customer base. People have been coming to us for several years and hence we can’t suddenly increase or decrease the prices. It’s a wait and watch process.”

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who runs The Yellow Chilli restaurant at Powai, maintains that there is no substitute for the onion in recipes but takes the onion crisis with a touch of humour: “It’s time to make friends with Jains and take recipes from them. They have managed to live without onions all their lives and are now laughing all the way to the bank.” He adds that while they haven’t stopped using onions or cut down on the portions used, an economical option could be to reduce the quantity served. “A useful substitution could be to use besan to thicken gravies instead of onions.

Tomatoes can also be used to improve the flavour of the preparations, which can prove cheaper than onions. But it’s not a complete substitute.” Restauranteur Farrokh Khambata of eateries Amadeus and Umame says, “Fortunately, we specialise in European and Asian cuisine, which don’t rely much on onions. But for those looking for substitutes for onions for homes can try using tomatoes to thicken the gravy. Corn starch is also a good option.”

-- Inputs from Soma Das and Dhara Vora
Pics/Shadab Khan, Satyajit Desai and Datta Kumbhar 

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