Whenever I go out to eat at an Indian restaurant, I make sure the meal includes plenty of raita on the side. Raita is a yogurt-based condiment that can help douse the fire if a dish is just a little to hot and spicy. In much the same way that sour cream or crema fresca is served with chili-infused Mexican food, the casein in the yogurt absorbs capsaicin, the compound that gives chili its heat. Raita can be used as a sauce or a dip. This raita is made with cucumber and mint because I have plenty of mint growing around the yard and cucumbers are plentiful at the farmers market. You could easily use cilantro instead of the mint, or carrots or papaya in place of the cucumbers.
Do you have a favorite raita recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.
If you are using English cucumbers, which are more mild and thin-skinned than the regular cucumbers we get in America, you do not need to peel them.
- One large (or two medium) cucumbers, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and seeded, then grated
- 2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
- 10 large mint leaves, thinly sliced* (can sub cilantro)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin**
- Pinch of cayenne
- Pinch of paprika
- Salt and pepper
* To slice the mint leaves, "chiffonade" them by stacking them on top of each other, rolling them up like a cigar, and taking thin slices off the end.
** If whole cumin seeds are available, take one teaspoon and toast the seeds first in a small skillet until just fragrant. Then grind with a mortar and pestle.
1 Place grated cucumber in a sieve and press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Alternatively, you can place the grated cucumber in the middle of a clean tea towel, wrap the towel around the cucumber and wring out the excess moisture.
2 Stir spices and mint into yogurt in a medium bowl. Stir in the grated cucumber. Chill until ready to serve.