Raita is a cool yogurt sauce that comes from northern Indian cuisine. It is often paired with heat-based sauces like mango chutney for contrast. Diners often use raita as a sauce to dip their appetizers in, such as samosas (fried pastry pouches filled with potatoes and peas) and papadums (ultra thin and crispy bread made of lentil flour). Raita is also eaten along with the main meal to cool the palate between the spicy Indian dishes. Raita is easy to make at home and can be prepared in many different ways, including raita from a base of cucumber and onion.
Pour off any excess liquid if the yogurt has separated at all. Put the yogurt in a bowl and mix with a spoon. Set aside.
Peel the cucumbers with a knife or a potato peeler. Slice lengthwise with a knife and remove the seeds with a small spoon. Finely dice the cucumbers. Next finely dice the onion. Then cut off the stems of the green chilies and slice lengthwise. Remove the seeds and finely dice. Finely chop the mint leaves. Set aside.
Slice the lemon in half. Squeeze the juice into a glass, either with your hand or a juicer. Then fish out any seeds that may have fallen into the glass. Set aside.
Add the cucumber, onion, green chili and mint to the yogurt. Mix well. Add lemon juice and mix well. Add salt, pepper, sugar and ground cumin to taste. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate the mixture for at least one hour. Otherwise, you can store the raita in the refrigerator for about two days.
Put the raita in small, attractive individual bowls for serving; raita is a side sauce, after all. If you wish to garnish the bowls of raita, add some fresh chopped coriander leaves, a sprinkling of toasted cumin seeds or a dash of ground garam masala. Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that often includes clove, cinnamon, black pepper, green cardamom, nutmeg and coriander.
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