Raita, which you will pretty much find on any Indian table setting is like a generous white canvas. You may find it, standing as a perfect dip for Kababs, or a dependable side dish to tame a fiery Biryani. It is so versatile and essential, you may as well call it the Little Black Dress of Indian cuisine! If you are like me, you will lose count—both for the LBDs in your closet and the combinations of Raitas you can conjure up with little imagination! And if you remember middle school Algebra (Permutations & Combinations), just for the sheer pleasure of it, crunch the numbers with the options I have listed here. I guarantee you will be amazed.
I believe the reason for Raita’s ubiquitous presence in India is because, it is perfect to cool off the spiciness and heat of Indian food, not to mention, to counter the oppressive heat in many parts of the country.
Raita is made with 3 basic ingredients– Yogurt, Onions, Salt. But as I said, that is only basic! See the options below to grasp the possibilities. Need I say it is a tasty way to get your dose of probiotics? By the way, it is funny how probiotics have been an integral part of Indian food from way before probiotics became the in-thing!
In place of Yogurt you can use,
Sour cream, slightly thinned
Mix of yogurt and sour cream
Mix of yogurt and Buttermilk
In place of Onions you can use,
Tomatoes (regular ones deseeded and diced, or quartered Grape Tomatoes)
Onions and Tomatoes
Cucumber and Onions
Cucumber, Onions and Tomatoes Carrots, finely grated
Boondi (fried tiny Chickpea balls)
Grape halves/any tart fruit (preferably one that does not bleed color into yogurt)
Or any combination of the above (except for Onions and fruits together!!)
In addition to Salt, you can use,
Roasted Cumin powder
Kala Namak (Black salt)
Red Chilli powder
Black Pepper powder
Finely diced green chillies
Ginger (dry powder or grated/diced if fresh)
Mint (dry or fresh)
Or any combination of the above
I make all of the above variations depending on what it is served with. We love Mango Raita, but made very infrequently because finding a fresh and taut ripe Mango in Midwest is a rarity. I typically make fruit Raitas and Cucumber Raitas for spice/heat intolerant people to go along with Biryani or Pulav. I skip Cilantro for Fruit Raitas, but Mint and Chaat Masalas go very well with fruit. I particularly use chilies when serving Raita for heat loving folks. And sometimes even amp it up with a sprinkle of Red Chilli powder and Black Pepper powder for garnish.
So pick a favorite combination and mix it up. Here is an outline of Cucumber Raita with Dry Mint and Green Chillies. Perfect for serving at room temperature along with any spicy rice or stuffed parathas or Kababs.
What you need (Serves 4-6):
1 diced English Cucumber* or Regular Cucumber (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups Yogurt, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Mint (fresh or dry)
1 tsp Chaat Masala (optional)
1/2 Green Chilli finely diced (optional)
* I prefer English Cucumber which requires no peeling or deseeding. If using a regular Cucumber, there is still no need to peel if the skin and seeds are tender enough to your liking.
How to make it:
- Into the yogurt, mix salt, Chaat Masala and Green Chillies, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add water if needed to reach your desired consistency
- Fold in diced Cucumber
- Garnish with a sprinkle of Mint and more Chaat Masala
I had a version of raita many times at a Pakistani restaurant, which they called Punjrunga Acha. I later found out that was pickled veg, and i can’t find any specific recipe for it. Do you know of a variation of Raita with such a mix?