Tomato Prices Hiked? Try These Alternative Souring Agents
Image Credit: Tomatoes/

Every year there's one vegetable whose price gets hiked and it makes you cry like nothing else. This time, it's tomatoes—not onions—that will have you sobbing in the kitchen. The cost of this vegetable has struck Rs 100 per kg and it doesn't appear like it will go down any time soon. Tomato is the key ingredient in Indian households. No dish is complete without a dash of tomato. Not only does it provides a beautiful red colour to the dish but also adds a touch of tart and tangy flavour. Dishes without tomatoes taste a little bland and it feels like something is missing from your palette. Tomatoes are used extensively in Indian cuisine but the price rise has left us sobbing real hard. But don't you worry, we've got a solution for this!

Here are some other souring agents that work just like tomatoes and will add a tangy flavour to your dishes-

Tamarind (Imli)

Priya Iyer, a food expert, uses tamarind as a souring ingredient. She explains, "There are several rassams that can be made with tamarind instead of tomatoes. Additionally, it can also be used while making puli upma and rice-Rawa upma. In South India, you'll find many dishes that are cooked with tamarind. All you have to do to use it is soak the tamarind, squeeze the juice out, filter it, and use it. Tamarind is a great alternative at times like this when tomatoes are so expensive.


Dry Mango Powder (Amchur)

Another fantastic flavour enhancer in place of tomato is amchur, one of the primary spices in chaat masala. As per the chef and culinary consultant Reetu Uday Kugaji " Amchoor not only enhances the flavour of many dishes but gives them a unique sour flavour or acidity if you don't have any lemons in your refrigerator. It is usually used to flavour marinades, dips, chutneys, various soups and curries, kebabs, dals, and sambhar. It has tenderising properties similar to those of fresh lime juice and is an excellent souring agent in many ways, like tamarind"


Kairi or Raw Mangoes

Another common ingredient is kairi, or raw mangoes. As per chef Ritu, "People use this extensively in cooking in the Konkan coast through Goa, Karnataka, Mangalore, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. It commonly goes into fish curries since it gives the curries a sour flavour as they simmer. Bengalis make a delicious lentil dish called tok dal, which is flavoured with a tang by adding sliced mangoes to the lentils. People also add grated or chopped raw mangoes soups, stews, and curries".

Kairi/ Instagram- sk_organicproducts

Anardana (Pomegranate Powder)

Pomegranates are loved for their sweet, ruby-red seeds, but the powder is also great for cooking. Anardana powder has a characteristic sweet, tangy, and fruity flavour, according to Reetu Uday Kugaji. When added, it gives different curries, lentil dishes, and vegetable dishes a tangy flavour. It is also added in Chhole, particularly pindi chhole, dals, and salads. It can be used to flavour a variety of soups and stews, as well as chutneys, relishes, and meat and seafood spice rubs. You can also add it to enhance the flavour of biryanis and kebabs. To use it, simply dry roast the anardana seeds in the oven and powder them.



Every Indian enjoys having curd with their meals but do you know it can also be used as an ingredient? Food blogger Purabi Naha advises using curd in your recipes now that tomatoes are so expensive. She continues, "In addition to being sour, tomatoes also have a thickening tendency; therefore, use curd in place of them. It serves as a thickener for fish and meat curry dishes like doi maach. In Bengali food, curd and mustard are also combined. She adds, "There's a good possibility it will split when cooking. To prevent this, whisk some curd with a small amount of maida or atta before adding it to the dish. This will prevent the curd from splitting and will add a thick texture to the dish.



Regular vinegar is available everywhere. The executive chef of Hotel Sea Princess in Juhu, Altamsh Patel, explains why it works so well as a souring agent. He states, "Vinegar, also known as sirka, is widely used in traditional Indian cooking. White vinegar, malt vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are among the forms of vinegar that are frequently used in Indian cuisine. Different gravies, notably Goan foods like vindaloo, gain flavour from it. Additionally, vinegar can be used for pickling, salads, dressings, and vegetable dishes like Tawa veggies. Remember to use a little amount of vinegar when cooking".



People from the coastal region love the green bilimbi fruit because it is high in vitamin C. A culinary expert named Vinaya Prabhu highlights its importance." Bilimbi is not marketed, but you can find it on a few trees in people's homes. We in the Kokani community use it to make a lot of pickles. It is a thick, crisp, green fruit. Because it has such a distinctive flavour and is so flavorful, we use it as a souring agent. We used to slice bilimbi and dry it in the sun at my mother's house in Bangalore in place of tamarind. You can also add a dried version instead of raw mangoes to fish curries for an enhanced flavour".



Kokum is another suitable alternative, according to Konkani native and home chef Shabana Saluddin, who adds that "Kokum is famous when it comes to coastal cookery, especially in fish dishes. Kokum is also used to make khatti dal. Use kokum for making the hot fish dish known as halduni. Additionally, it is used to prepare the cuisine khatte bangde, which is stuffed mackerels. Kokum ki chutney is made using kokum, onions, salt, sugar, green chillies, and coriander leaves which is served with pulao".  She provides some advice on how to use kokum. "First, look for a pink tint before purchasing; if it appears to be black, it may be an old item. Additionally, soak the kokum a little before boiling to eliminate any dirt on the surface and to make it more tender".

Kokum/ Instagram- made_in_goa

Gongura or Sorrel Leaves

Ruhina Lodi, a home chef from Chennai talks about a gongura-based dish that is popular in her household. She adds, "Gongura is used as a souring agent in Andhra cuisine". Additionally, try combining dried gongura with coriander, red chillies, garlic, a few pinches of zeera, and salt to make a delicious gongura gunpowder masala. Gongura can be substituted for tamarind and tomato in a variety of curries, including drumstick curry. The sour flavour of the green leafy vegetable is a little stronger than chuka. You can also make gongura chutney that pairs well with Dalcha and aloo gosht korma.

Gongura leaves/