When onions are too costly or unavailable, life comes to a standstill. Onion is the basic ingredient for most of the Indian dishes. An Indian women staying in Africa, who cooks delicious Indian recipes, said that half of the ingredients will not be locally available so she uses substitutes. Her recipes are as good as the original. If half of the ingredients does not reduce the taste of a recipe, can’t onion substitute be used.
Onion is required in large quantity to get a thick gravy, so judicious housewives develop unadulterated techniques to thicken the gravy. For instance saute the onion slices till golden brown, add some tomatoes to it, cook for some time and then grind the mix to a paste. This tomato-onion paste makes a thicker and tastier gravy than plain sauteed onions.
What if there is no onion in the house! Some budget conscious husbands say “no more onions, till the prices get normal, cook without onion”. The wife has to cook tasty food with some kind of onion substitute. Here are a few onion substitute that can thicken the gravy and provide richer taste to the commonly cooked dishes like mixed vegetable curry, aloo-gobi, channa masala, butter paneer and so on.
- Coconut: Grate the coconut, grind to a paste and add to the sauteed ingredients for the alloo-mutter curry. The vegetables should be boiled separately. After adding the coconut paste the dish should be cooked only on low flame as the gravy should not boil.
- Coconut milk: Grind the coconut without water, use a strainer to squeeze the first milk; keep the milk aside. Again grind the coconut with some water, squeeze the second milk and keep it aside. Again add some water, grind and squeeze the third milk. After all the masala is sauted and vegetables are added, cook the vegetable in third milk. When the vegetable is cooked add the second milk, cook on low flame for few minutes. Add the first milk and remove from stove as soon as the milk is warm. (Coconut milk powder is also available in the market).
- Poppy Seed: Khus-khus is costly, only a spoonful is required for regular cooking. Grate khus kush to a paste with ginger, garlic and chilly. Saute the paste with other ingredients like chili powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Add the vegetables with water and cook for some time. (N.b. Poppy seed is banned in countries like UAE and some Arab countries.)
- Milk cream: During the days of crisis make the cream at home, why buy the costly creams. When the milk comes to boil, reduce the flame and stir for a while. Remove from stove and refrigerate for a while. You get a thick upper layer of cream. Remove and use in curries. (Milk separators are also available in the market)
- Corn flour: After cooking the vegetable with the masalas, add a spoonful of corn flour mixed with water. You get a thick gravy.
- Cashew nuts: Some shops sell minutely broken cashew nuts at rock bottom prices. Grind the cashews with other ingredients and saute for a while; mix with the vegetables and masalas and cook.
- Coriander powder: The more coriander powder you add, the thicker the gravy. Coriander has antioxidants and dietary fibres, so they are beneficial for health. If fennel or cumin seed is added while grinding the coriander powder, the dishes will get better flavour.