Thursday, March 17, 2005

A primer on making RAITA

Indian food is not known for its salads! Friends often ask me if Indian meals traditionally include salads at all. The answer is yes; most home-style meals in India are served with some form of raw vegetables, such as

  • Kachumbar: This consists of chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumbers tossed together with a generous sprinkling of cilantro and lemon juice. The citrus really accentuates the fresh flavors and this salad is a great palate cleanser.
  • Often thinly sliced salad vegetables are simply arranged on a big platter and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
  • Raita: This is a versatile salad with a yogurt base. It serves as a cool contrast to the spicy flavors of a curry meal.  

Raitas can work as a side-dish, salad, or dip. They are so easy to put together:

Base: Whipped yogurt seasoned with salt. Low-fat or non-fat yogurt works fine, as does sour cream, in a pinch. I often use some milk to think down yogurt so it can be whipped more easily. If the yogurt is sour, a dash of sugar goes a long way in enhancing the flavor.

Vegetables: Use any combination of the following vegetables, chopped or grated; tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, beets, boiled potatoes.

Herbs: Sprinkle any of all of the following finely minced herbs; mint, cilantro, parsley.

Seasoning: A minimalistic raita will need nothing more than a dash of salt and pepper. If you are feeling more adventurous, try crushed roasted cumin seeds, a sprinkling of paprika or finely minced fresh ginger.

Topping: I love using crushed roasted peanuts as a topping for my raita. It is one of the traditional ways of making raita in Maharashtra where I grew up.

Simply toss all the components together in a bowl and let it chill for a while before serving.


  1. You know, my mom got me into adding diced granny smith apples (in addition to cucumbers/cilantro/etc) into my raita. It adds a fantastic crunch and a nice tart bite. May sound strange, but it absolutely works - although probably very non-traditional.

    PS - i love your blog, Nupur!

  2. hi nupur,
    just found your blog looking for a pav bhaji recipe. it turned out just like i remember it - from sukh sagar and from my mum. thank you! the only difference was that i added peas and lemon juice at the end.

    regarding raitas and kachumbars, in my family we also sometimes add pomegranate seeds or green mango chopped fine to the kachumbar, in the right season of course. try it!
    also, i am from rajasthan and one raita that we eat in my family is bundi raita. i have never had it anywhere else in india. you can buy the bundis at patel brothers in jackson heights. just add them to the yoghurt with some red chilli pepper, salt, black pepper, cumin powder and a pinch of sugar. they add a great crunch if you eat it right away and are good when they get soft sitting in the yoghurt for a while.

    thanks again for the pav bhaji recipe.


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