With a base of yoghurt or dahi, raita is one of the most popular sides in Pakistani and Indian cuisine being served alongside dishes such as biryani and pulao. Not only does yoghurt temper the spice that is a characteristic part of Desi cuisine, but it also acts as a condiment or dip to soak up the roti for dry dishes like BBQ. Read on ahead to find out about the different types of raita in Desi cuisine as well as tips on how to make raita.
How to make raita - plain & simple as well as different variations:
There can be many different types of raita depending on personal preference and the dishes it is served with. Following are some of the most popular ones found in Pakistani cuisine:
1. Plain raita with spices:
In its most simplest form, raita can just be plain yoghurt whisked together with spices. My personal preference is salt, red chili pepper and/or roasted cumin seeds (or bhuna zeera as we call it in Urdu). Another spice that people like to add is chaat masala, which is a spicy and tart spice mix used in chaat in Desi cuisine.
2. Vegetable Raita:
Raita is also delicious with vegetables. Dice up some onions, chop up some tomatoes, finely chop green chilies and tear off some coriander. Add one or all depending on what you love, and what you have in the fridge.
3. Cucumber Raita:
Cucumber raita is another raita combination that is particularly preferred in the summers as both yoghurt and cucumber have cooling properties. Grate or finely dice up a cucumber, let the excess water drain out, and then add it to whisked up yoghurt. Add salt, red chili powder and a pinch of roasted cumin seeds.
4. Green Chutney Raita:
Another form of raita, which is quite popular with BBQ dishes is the green chutney raita, and as the name suggests it’s green chutney blended with raita. To make this raita, you just need to blend coriander, green chilies, mint, yoghurt and salt together. Or if you have green chutney in the fridge already, add a tablespoon of it to plain yoghurt and whisk together. If you are looking for a recipe for home-made green chutney, you can find it here
Tips on making Pakistani style raita:
Consistency - The consistency of raita depends on the dishes that it is served. If it’s served with rice dishes such as biryani, pulao or tahari I prefer to keep it on the thinner side to coat the rice properly but if served with a dry item like chicken tikka, I prefer to keep it thick so it acts as a condiment / dip.
Whisking - raita needs to be whisked else it can be quite thick and lumpy. You can get a small whisk or just use a fork - it does an excellent job. Whisk the yoghurt first and then add the spices and vegetables.
Type of yoghurt to use - always use plain yoghurt (no flavourings) to make raita, and though you can use low fat, full-fat is preferred for it's rich and creamy texture. Yoghurt is best purchased fresh and in Pakistan, we would get it from the local milk store or bakery. Abroad, Desi style yoghurt can be found in Pakistani or Indian stores and if that's not an option then just get plain yoghurt. Not Greek style yoghurt as it can be quite thick and doesn't have the signature tartness. If Greek style yoghurt is the only option available to you, you can use it just add more water to thin it and add a touch more salt to balance the flavour.
Some recipes that you can enjoy with raita are the following:
- Aloo ki Tahari or Aloo Chawal (Spiced Potato Rice)
- Aloo ki Tarkari (Potato Curry)
- Pakistani Karahi Chicken
How to make raita and different types of raita
Plain raita with spices:
- 1 cup yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons milk adjust as required
- 4 tablespoon water adjust as required
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, roasted and crushed bhuna zeera)
- ½ - 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 3 tablespoons onion diced
- 3 tablespoons tomatoes diced
- 1 green chili chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander plus more for garnish
Green chutney raita:
- 2 tablespoons green chutney
Plain raita with spices:
Place yoghurt in a bowl with milk and water. Whisk together and add more milk or water as required. Add cumin seeds, salt and red chili powder and mix through.
Add the diced up vegetables to the plain yoghurt with spices. Stir together, leaving some coriander leaves for garnish in the end.
Green chutney raita:
Whisk yoghurt with milk and water. Add green chutney along with roasted cumin seeds and stir through. Taste and then add the salt and red chili powder.
How to make roasted cumin seeds (or bhuna zeera):
Place cumin seeds on a tawa / frying pan. Dry roast on low - medium heat for 2 minutes, making sure to move the pan around so the cumin seeds don’t burn. Take off the heat and place in a spice grinder and ground into a coarse powder. Pour the roasted and ground cumin seeds into an air-tight bottle and it will last for a couple of months in the spice cabinet.
If you are looking for a recipe for home made green chutney, you can find one on the blog here