Friday, October 7, 2011

Raita in India, Tzatziki in Greece, Cacik in Turkey

In India we eat a lot of yogurt with our meals for its great cooling effect and for its benefits from the good bacteria. A raita is mostly eaten with a rice dish - like a biryani or pilaf in the north and in the south it is called pachadi eaten with flavored rice like lemon rice, tomato rice etc. It is a mixture of yogurt with some vegetables, and spices and sometimes herbs.

Here are a couple of variations of  raita which is delicious just by itself - with an Indian meal or with some grilled fish. The first is a basic cucumber raita, dressed up with frizzled ginger and cilantro. The frizzled ginger gives it that added zing.
The second one is raita with black eyed peas and fresh tomatoes. Try these with the mixed vegetable pilaf.

Cucumber Raita with frizzled ginger

Cucumber raita with frizzled ginger
2 Persian cucumbers, grated ( I like this variety because it is seedless and they do not have to be peeled)
2 cups plain yogurt (home made low fat yogurt if possible)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon toasted cumin powder (First toast the cumin and then grind using a spice grinder)
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Heat a small saucepan with canola oil. Saute the ginger sticks till they are brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a kitchen towel to drain off the excess oil. 
  2. Whisk the yogurt with the grated cucumber in a serving bowl. Mix in the salt and the toasted cumin powder. Garnish with the fried ginger and cilantro.


Raita with black eyed peas and tomato

1/2 cup dried black eyed peas
2 cups plain yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped vine ripened tomato, without the seeds

  1. Soak the black eyed peas in hot water for 4 to 6 hours. Or you could soak it with cool water overnight.
  2. Drain the water and top it with fresh water about 2 inches above the peas. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes till the beans are soft but not mushy. Drain and cool.
  3. Whisk the yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a serving bowl. Mix in the cooled black eyed peas and chopped tomato. Lightly stir in the cayenne pepper and serve.
Serving suggestion: Serve with Mixed Vegetable Pilaf

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