A friend recently asked me to post a simple raita recipe. My unsurprising response to that was: but did you check out the chaas recipe?! For anything you would want to use raita you can just use chaas instead. I am sure if we were having the conversation in person she would have rolled her eyes at me. But instead, I got an email response reminding me that some people may actually prefer raita to chaas. Um, who?
Of course, I am sure that is true. And given that raita is a ubiquitous item on every Indian restaurant menu, I am sure that number is larger than I imagine.
In truth, raita was always the yogurt accompaniment we made when we were having guests for dinner; while chaas was for our every day family dinners. This logic still makes no sense to me given my preference for chaas over raita. But even I only make raita when people come over for dinner, reserving chaas for our regular dinners at home. Old habits do die-hard, as they say.
My mom shreds her cucumber. I prefer that to the chunks of cucumber you sometimes find in restaurants as the flavor of the cucumber permeates through the yogurt. As I have mentioned, my mom does not use onions or garlic in her cooking, but I thought it would be nice to have shredded onion in the raita as well. So I added that as well as a finely chopped tomato.
When I asked my mom for the recipe, I was surprised by the various spices she includes in her raita. But since the spicier the better, I went with it.
We always had this as an accompaniment to a big meal with at least 3-4 dishes, but I use it as a dip for crackers or bread as well.
2 c low-fat yogurt
1/3 c shredded cabbage
1/4 c finely chopped cilantro
1/4 c shredded onion
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar (optional)
1 t ground cumin powder
1/4 t ground red chili powder
1/2 T butter or ghee
1 t mustard seeds
Put all the above ingredients except the butter/ghee and mustard seeds together in a bowl. Mix well. In a separate pan, place butter or ghee over high heat and add 1 t mustard seeds. Wait until mustard seeds are popping and add them to the other ingredients. Mix. This is better made a day ahead of time so the flavors have more time to marry.