What is raita?
Raiti is an Indian condiment made from salted yoghurt (dahi), mixed together with a variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs, and typically served as a side dish to help cool the heat of spicy Indian, Pakastani and Bangladeshi foods.
It is similar to Greek tzatsiki, a cucumber and yogurt dip or sauce. Raita cools the heat when you eat spicy food. There is some science behind this. The casein in yogurt neutralizes the capsaicin in chilis. You can read my post on jalapeños to find out what foods to eat to neutralize spicy foods.
More than cucumber raita
Cucumber raita is probably the most common type of raita. Raita, however, has many delicious variations that go way beyond cucumbers and herbs. Here are the basics of how to make raita:
Start with plain, full fat yogurt or Greek yogurt. Don't use low-fat or non-fat yogurt. The full fat is actually healthier for you. (Seriously, we need to stop fearing fat and redirect our fears towards sugar and processed foods.) I use my homemade yogurt, which is simple to make and so delicious that once you try it you will not want to buy store bought anymore. Check out my post on how to make your own yogurt.
Raita typically has some kind of allium in it, brown onion, red onion, shallots or green onions. Leeks would also be good.
Fruits and vegetables
Most people think of cucumber raita when they think of raita, but a wide variety of fruits and vegetables can be used to make raita. Here are some examples:
Herbs and spices
A variety of herbs and spices can be added to flavor raita, including:
- Black mustard seed
- Garam Masala
- Chili powder
- Chili peppers
Lemon or lime juice is typically added to raita.
Raita is typically salted. I add salt last and salt to taste.
How to make raita
Start with 2 cups of yogurt, then add alliums, fruit or vegetables, herbs and spices, lemon or lime juice and finish with salt. No need to follow a strict recipe. Taste along the way until you have something delicious.
How to eat raita
Raita can be eaten with curries, vegetable dishes, naan or other breads. I like it in sandwiches, with rice and in tacos. Some raita is really meant to be a salad and not a condiment. In this case, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables and decrease the amount of yogurt. Check out my recipe for Yogurt raita with cucumbers and yellow raisins.
How do you like to eat raita?