Raita or raitha is served as a cooling side dish throughout most of India. Its basic ingredient is yoghurt (dahi – usually homemade) and then vegetables, herbs and spices are added in the inimitable Indian fashion. It can be compared to our own Greek tzatziki, apart from the fact that raita has many different herbal versions, for example, a simple raita soup can contain just mint or a little cumin.
The commonest versions have 3-4 vegetables and/or fruit, at least one herb and some roasted spices, either added individually or as a masala. Whether it’s mild or hot, raita is always cooling and is served cold as an accompaniment to rice dishes, meat, dry cooked dishes and particularly with the spiciest recipes. As you can imagine, it’s a permanent fixture on the Indian dining table.
In Southern India, home of the raita, it is made to be colourful and tasty. They make it lightly spiced, but if you prefer, you can make it mild by leaving out the chilli peppers or substituting them with ordinary peppers. It makes a great accompaniment to biryani.
Raita – the Indian yoghurt dip
Preparation: Make in advance and refrigerate. Add the cayenne and a few vegetable pieces as a colourful garnish before serving. Raita is always served cold.
Ingredients (serve 4)
1 carton yoghurt (220 g)
1 tomato, chopped
50g cucumber, deseeded, cubed
2 green chilli peppers, finely sliced
1.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
A few fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 pinch cayenne
Put the yoghurt, tomato, cucumber, ginger, chilli pepper and half the coriander in a large bowl, keeping a few of the vegetable pieces aside for the garnish. Mix well. Spoon into one serving bowl or a few small dip bowls and garnish with the vegetables and sprinkle with cayenne.
Translated by Sophie Athanasiadis