Raita is an essential dip or sauce of South Indian cuisine and is often the key to balancing spicy dishes. Typically it is served with spicy dishes such a biriyani to cool the palate and add some freshness. It is also an integral part of regional thalis which are all about balancing flavour and texture. There are many varieties of raita but this recipe is for the most popular kind – cucumber raita. Resembling the Greek dip tzatziki, raita is made up of very similar ingredients but there are subtleties in the flavour of the individual condiments.
Raita is made with dahi, which is a thinner salted traditional Indian curd, whilst tzatziki starts with a thicker plain Greek yoghurt. Tzatziki has much more of a tang also as it is ladened with a good amount of lime juice. Raita on the other hand, is often a little sweeter as the salty yoghurt is sometimes balanced with a bit of sugar, depending on which Indian household you chat to.
Another variable that exists in the world of raita is the consistency; some like it thick whilst others prefer it as pouring consistency. I like a thicker dip to spoon in kebabs and something looser over rice dishes; the type of yoghurt, whether you messed your cucumber or not and how long you leave it to stand will all effect its consistency. As kids, my siblings and I would douse the biriyani that our grandma served us with runny raita, so much so that we’d often have more yoghurt than rice on our plates.