Raita is a very under rated dish – that’s my opinion anyway! In the UK, my experience of raita came from the local curry house – usually thinned down yogurt with added salt and maybe a few watery chunks of cucumber. Used purely to put out the fire on my tongue caused by a little too much chilli heat!
Our time spent in India introduced me to a completely different raita perspective. For a start, there are many different types using a variety of vegetables, herbs, spices and even the odd bit of fruit too. Used as side dish, or even a type of side salad, to provide a cooling element to a meal (or the weather – chilled raita was glorious on a steaming hot day!), I also discovered it’s medicinal properties.
When we struggled with gut problems, and we did quite often to start of with, our house staff made raita mixed into steamed rice to help calm churning stomachs and explosive loo visits. It also provided much needed nourishment when it was hard to keep anything down. By the time we’d adjusted to our new environment, my children had got a taste for it and asked for ‘curd rice’ for dinner even when they were well 🙂
Of course, when I went dairy free and then plant-based, I had to shift to soya yoghurt instead of cow. I prefer using unsweetened yoghurt – fortunately there are some reasonable tasting ones around now like Sojade (if you can find a local stockist) or Tesco own brand. If you can tolerate coconut, then a lusciously creamy Coyo yoghurt works rather wonderfully.
I still like to use cucumber as my vegetable base in raita. However, cucumber is surprisingly disagreeable to a lot of people, causing indigestion or acid reflux. This could be due to the bitter phytonutrients it contains. Which is a shame, because cucumber can also help reduce gastric reflux! It’s suggested that because cucumber is mainly water, it helps dilute excess stomach acid. But we’re all different with what foods our body likes and dislikes, so if cucumber is a no-no for you, try chopped mint and/or coriander leaves, onion, cabbage, garlic, green chilli or pomegranate seeds as your solid ingredient. That’s quite a list of options! You can use as few or as many together as you like.
Spice wise, toasted cumin seeds are a must as they aid digestion. If you don’t want whole seeds getting stuck in your teeth, grind the seeds into a powder before adding them to the mix. You can of course use bought cumin powder – freshly toasted tastes so much better though.
Finally, add a little citrus to lift the whole dish. Fresh lemon or lime juice does the trick. It also helps you absorb nutrients and gives you a little vitamin C boost too.
This recipe is how I like raita, but as you can see, you can make it to suit your individual tastes and preferences. Do give this a try. You can make it in advance and keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days. It might look like a bit of a faff, but it’s worth it!
- 200 gram unsweetened soya yoghurt
- 1/3 cucumber finely chopped or grated
- 1/4 red onion (optional) finely chopped or grated
- 3 tbsp fresh coriander finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium lemon or lime juice only
- Mix the yoghurt, cucumber, fresh herbs and onion together in a bowl. Mix well.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add half of the juice and test the flavour. Add more if needed.
- Sprinkle cumin on top and garnish with extra chopped coriander if desired.
- Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days