Saturday, February 7, 2009

Condiment of the Week: Cucumber Raita

Defining cucumber raita as a "condiment" might be stretching the definition a bit, but I like to think that it should be classified with ketchup and mayo if more people ate it regularly in the US. Perhaps its Indian origins, and not many people actually knowing what it is has something to do with it.Raita , particularly the cucumber type, is very common in South Indian cuisine and is often served alongside traditional dishes whether here in the US, Britain, or India. It is cool and refreshing, providing a reprieve to many spicy dishes by giving your tongue a break it needs.

The primary ingredients are yogurt, mint, and cucumbers with a number of variations that can include cilantro, cayenne, paprika and toasted cumin seeds. Occasionally I have had it where it is very sweet, almost like vanilla instead of plain yogurt was used, and I do not recommend it made like this. The yogurt is meant as a foil to the spicy food you are eating, not as a primary taste to the dish. The idealraita has the flavor of the cucumber and the mint coming through on the palate, while the yogurt gets you ready for yet another bite of something that makes the tongue tingle with satisfaction.

Favorite Use: Topping spicy Indian food or on the side for naan dipping
Strangest Use: Marinade for chicken that gives it an unusual and tender texture and flavor.

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