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I'm making an Indian dish, for this I need tomatoes, no matter what recipe I follow I'm not getting the taste of the restaurant.

Is this because I'm not preparing tomato properly or is it because I'm not choosing good tomatoes? How can I identify good tomatoes??

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    Welcome to the site. Unfortunately your question cannot be answered as it is because it isn't clear what you are asking. What dish are you trying to make? You seem to be making an assumption that you need tomatoes, but does the recipe call for them? Why do you think you need tomatoes? – GdD Nov 10 at 10:54
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    In the UK I find most 'fresh' tomatoes are a disappointment. This could be because they are shipped and stored chilled, and typically are picked underripe: see independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/…. If I want to bring out their taste in a curry, I usually grill or roast them first, until they are slightly caramelised. – Mark Wildon Nov 10 at 11:46
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    @GdD I'm making a paneer curry, and it requires a tomato gravy. – user79421 Nov 10 at 12:36
  • Counsel of perfection. Grow your own tomatoes. Choose varieties for flavour above other commercial qualities. It's astonishing how much range of flavour there is in tomatoes -- almost as much as apples. You won't ever discover this by buying ordinary tomatoes in shops. – nigel222 Nov 12 at 10:34
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    Indian food isn't about the tomatoes - I mean, good tomatoes help, certainly, but the art of making tasty Indian food is more about the spices and cooking technique; when to add spices, how much, tempering them, but not burning them, getting the right amount of frying going on with the gravy, etc. – J... Nov 12 at 13:48
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Most tomatoes from the produce aisle will be relatively flavourless— this is because they are frequently picked when they are unripe so that they can ripen en route to the store and extend their shelf life as a result. Try using canned tomatoes instead, which are picked at the height of their ripeness and preserved right away.

  • Thanks. Will try canned tomatoes. Why are the picked when they are ripe? – user79421 Nov 10 at 12:37
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    @user79421 since the tomatoes are sterilized as part of the canning process farmers don’t have to worry about them going bad on the shelf. Since no bacteria can grow in the can a can of tomatoes will taste the same the day after it was canned as it will a month after it was canned so they pick them and can them when they taste best. Comparatively if you picked fully ripe tomatoes and put them in the produce aisle they would turn to mush by the end of the week. Therefore they pick them when they’re less ripe so they last longer. – Dugan Nov 10 at 12:54
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    @user79421, different varieties of tomatoes are used too. "Fresh" tomatoes have been specifically bred to be tough and long lasting (and lost a lot of flavour in the process), while canning/ketchup tomatoes have been bred for flavour. There's a reason San Marzano canned tomatoes are so expensive; they really do taste better. – Ray Butterworth Nov 10 at 14:35
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    Tomatoes to be used in commercial canning frequently have a very short trip to the factory, so they can be picked closer to ripe @user79421 – GdD Nov 10 at 19:02
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    @GdD Very true --- similarly I was near York speaking with a pea-farmer some 20 years ago. They had 1hour between the harvester touching the pea and a company deep-freezing them: Six (gps-guided) harvesters were picking & shelling while driving, and a row of dump trucks were waiting at the edge of the field --- each taking loads from harvesters for maximum 20 minutes, then a 30--35min trip to the factory. For tomatoes it's less time-pressured (and less easily automated) but not a million miles off. – user3445853 Nov 12 at 11:52
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Are you sure the taste difference is only based on the tomatoes? I think Indian cuisine has a lot more aspects/ingredients.

As for the tomatoflavor, try adding some tomatopaste. It is usually fried like onion/garlic for a short while, before adding the bulk liquid (like stock). This source says it "needs a few minutes on medium heat to darken in color and release its flavor"

Edit: changed 'baked' to 'fried' for clarification

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    You say "baked" and I think "in an oven." Rather, I've always lightly browned tomato paste in a fry pan in a pat of butter on medium to medium-high heat. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Nov 10 at 23:25
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    English is not my first language, I forgot the word 'fried' :P – user2966394 Nov 11 at 9:43
  • I thought that's what you meant, but I didn't want to presume. I didn't know if maybe I had been doing it wrong all this time! – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Nov 11 at 16:04
  • I'm sure it is due to tomato because I notice the same fruity taste in pizza, I concluded it was the tomato. – user79421 Nov 12 at 12:10
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Variety makes a huge difference as well. We make a variant of Caprese salad frequently, which is something that depends heavily on the quality of the tomatoes, and we basically have two choices when making it for optimal flavor:

  • Use tomatoes we grow ourselves (we live in the northern US, so that's possible for about 2 months out of the year)
  • Use Campari tomatoes, which we are able to get hydroponically grown relatively nearby and packed ripe.

Camparis are a highly flavorful variety, one of the most flavorful that are easy to obtain (at least in our area), and because we're able to find a source that gives us fully ripe tomatoes consistently, they turn out very well. We've tried with quite a few other varieties and sources, and even in season haven't gotten results near what we can get out of season with hydroponic Camparis.

You may want to find out what varieties of tomatoes are commonly used in the dishes you prepare - depending on what kind of flavor you're going for, plum, campari, or roma may be a good choice, for example. This site recommends Plum tomatoes for sauces, for example.

I also see the desi tamatar, which seems to be a common Indian variety of tomato, which seems very similar to the Campari, both in appearance and flavor; I've seen some recipes that consider the two identical, though I suspect that's not truly the case (as the Campari is a recent hybrid developed in Europe).

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It'd be wonderful if we could always purchase delicious, fresh tomatoes; bursting with intense, spectacular tomato flavor! Alas, such is not the reality for most cooks, most times of the year.

The solution is to use fresh tomatoes as much as possible when they are available, but supplement them with one or more types of canned tomato products.

From canned whole tomatoes; through the many variations of diced, crushed, pureed, etc.; to the even more varietal tomato pastes and sauces; no pantry is complete without one or more types of canned tomatoes.

Experiment with whatever selection of tomato products are typically available where you live. Through trial, error, and patience; you'll eventually achieve the taste you're longing for!

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I use store bought "fresh" tomatoes on the vine for a lot tomato based dishes I make (such as curries).

I've found one way to bring out the flavour is to slow cook them for 6-8 hours on low, with the last few hours lidless to allow some water to evaporate off.

You can then mash or blend the mix to whatever consistency required. You can also do this in a saucepan if you're careful not to burn the tomatoes. Obviously this is time consuming but it can be done in advance and in bulk then frozen for future use but it does really help bring out more flavour.

If the recipe calls for it, adding browned onions into the mix can create a sweeter flavour and as others have mentioned concentrated tomato puree and/or roasted garlic puree can enhance the flavour.

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