The flavour has ‘melted away’: Australia’s first tearless onion, taste-tested

Contrary to the expectations of me, there aren’t any queues at my nearby Woolworths. This is despite the fact that it’s the official launch day of Happy Chop, the trademarked name for a brand new type made of “tearless” brown onion, only sold by the chain supermarket.

The arrival of onions was widely welcomed in the Australian media; however, within the home of fresh food lovers, there’s little excitement.

As customers look over a plethora of silverbeets as they browse out a variety of oranges. I’m standing on my own in the display of onions. The neon-pink label on the retail shelf indicates that they are “new”; the in-store speakers blast the Delta Goodrem song Born to Try, and I am able to feel, in my neck, an emerald that has come from the air conditioning. It’s the only indication of movement in my proximity. Where are all the people?

According to Woolworths, tear-free onions have been developed for the past 30 years. Produced and packed through Dolling Produce of South Australia, they are not genetically modified but were crossbred with specific onions to lower the possibility of tears if they are cut.

However, the Australian onions aren’t the first to have their kind. In 2016, Japan introduced an onion called the Smile Ball, an onion with no tears that was later changed to Goldies to appeal to the US market (why make a change to the name of an item that was not in error?). Then, the competitor Sunions came out in the United States. Launched across the United States in 2018, which was followed by an introduction in the UK at the time of 2022.

But will these onions be able to make the cut that is cry-free? More importantly, are they really good?

The Happy Chop packaging claims to be “sweet tasting” onion. The outcome is anticipated, according to Dr. Ken Ng, a senior lecturer in the field of food chemistry at the University of Melbourne.

The tears of an onion are a self-defense mechanism. If the onion gets cut the onion releases volatile gases referred to as propanethial S-oxide. This triggers a burning sensation in your eyes. It also deters animals from causing damage to the bulb.

“Tearless onions are specifically bred to have lower levels of amino acid sulfoxides which propanethial-S-oxide is derived from,” Ng states.

“However, amino acid sulfoxides contribute to the pungent, sharp and slightly sweet flavour of raw onions … Thus, tearless onions will be blander in taste and smell.”

Since I love the flavor, this may not suggest that I will be a good candidate for my tasting test.

Suppose you enter Flyover Fritterie, a modern Indian restaurant located in Redfern, Sydney. In that case, the first thing you be aware of is the sweet, delicious, spicy smell of onions that have been cooked. The next thing you’ll areberuck by is the sound: coming from the open kitchen is the distinctive sound of the batter being sprayed with hot oil.

The Flyover Fritterie’s most popular menu item includes the onions pakora (also known as a Bhaji or vada), which is deep-fried fritters made of chickpea flour and chickpea flour. The restaurant serves hundreds of pakoras every day, according to the head chef, Dhruv Sadaphal. In order to do this, kitchen staff must cut the onions up to 25 kg. They know what onions they have.

Sadaphal suggests that sharp knives and an air-conditioned space can put tears at bay. However, owner Gunjan Aylawadi is particularly excited about the latest advancements in the onion world. “It feels like I’ll be able to cook with onions any time of the day … It’d be like cutting up an apple, I think.”

Her face turns red when I put the onion net from the promised land in the food pass. “There’s two-and-a-half onions in there,” she says while pokpokinge bags. She’s probably right. There are three for 500g bags, and at $2.50 per bag (or $5 per kg The Happy Chops are about 50 percent more expensive than 1kg net of normal onion ($3.20). It’s not the same as shrinkflation in the strict sense. Perhaps shrink ovation might be more appropriate?

Aylawadi and Sadaphal smell the faint scent while they examine the Happy Chop. It could look similar to an ordinary onion, but this one smells just like one “that’s been sitting in your pantry for a while,” according to Aylawadi. Sadaphal puts it on a cutting table: “It’ll be better when I slice it up, probably?”

He can do this with skill like he has done numerous times prior to. The eyes of the man are dry. The allium has passed its first obstacle. It’s blemish-free.

Next test: Does it taste like onion?

Each one of them tastes like a raw apple. It’s sweet and fruity and a bit citrusy, complemented by the crunchy sweetness that comes from an apple. It could be a great addition to salads. Aylawadi describes the flavor by describing it as a “faint onion” – “like someone didn’t clean the chopping board and I had to cut something else on top.”

Then it’s time to cook it. Sadaphal prepares two pakoras: one with tears, the other without. He dunks the onion slices in batter and forms the pieces into discs before dropping them into a vessel filled with hot oil. They cook, drizzle, and then transform into golden frills. However, when Aylawadi is able to take one bite from the smoky onion pakoras, she declares that the onion flavor is “melted away.”

“I can only taste chickpea flour batter.”

She tries a pakora with regular onion and feels relief. “The onion’s back, it’s back,” she declares. “Thank god.”

It’s her professional opinion but what will this cook at home fare?

At the Woolworths check-out, I realized that I’d forgotten to pack the shopping bag. I leave the store with four onion nets in my hands. People look at me, amused. Please don’t be silly, I’d like to shout. I’m on a mission. As I drive towards my vehicle, one of the nets falls to the ground while the onions gradually move beneath my Toyota. I grab my knees and hands and scrape them off of the asphalt. Maybe this is the reason why the label instructs chefs to “wash before use.”

At home, I remove the brown skin and it crinkles when I hold it in my hands. I cut it in half to reveal its shiny white interior. Following the method of Sadaphal, I cut them in cross-cut half-circles. Then I saw, using a knife, crushing the allium into a confetti of onions. There is a hint of onion scent on the inside, but as with Flyover Fritterie, there are no tears.

I’m feeling like a robotic. I smear a powerful garlic clove to experience something.

I give a slice to my husband, who considers it “crunchy” but also “wet.”

“The diluted cordial of the onion world,” he declares. I cook them in an oven. They’re sweet, discreet, and devoid of any personality. They’re perfect.

I imagine seedless watermelons and slices of bread, a marvel of modern technology where convenience has increased without cost for the quality of what was original.

I am thinking of Pyrrhus, The Greek King who fought against the Romans during the Battle of Heraclea in 280 BC and at great expense for his troops.

I often think of the tear-free onion. For the past three decades, humanity has carefully crossedbred its ability to shed tears. However, in the process, we’ve stripped it of its basic onion-ness. How do we rejoice in what we have gained while losing all of it? I grieve. However, it is odd that I can’t be crying.

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