North Indian Mint Raita: Refreshing Yogurt Dish Cools Spicy Aftertastes

by DerdriuMarriner

North Indian mint raita (pudina raita) refreshes as the cucumber, mint and yogurt dish cools and balances spiced palates.

Raita (pronounced: rye-tuh) is served as a side or complementary dish and is described as a yogurt-based condiment, relish or sauce. Delhi-based food and travel writer Vasundhara Chauhan comments that raita's etymology is "hard to source" in his March 21, 2015, article in The Hindu. He suggests the possibility of a verb connecting raita to rai, the traditional culinary tool for whipping yogurt to desired smoothness. He notes the more common, "probably . . . correct" view of tracing raita's etymology to Sanskrit's râjikâtiktaka ("mustard pickle"). This Sanskrit word combines râjikâ ("mustard seed") and tikta or teekha ("pungent or sharp [taste]").

Chauhan points out, however, that mustard seed is not the ubiqutious ingredient in raita's many versions. For example, raitas may also feature roasted and ground zeera (cumin), while other raita recipes call for neither cumin nor mustard seed.

Raita ingredients vary, but the ingredient that links all recipes is yogurt. Dahi is the yogurt-like, fermented milk product used on the Indian subcontinent as the basic ingredient in such recipes as lassi, a yogurt-based beverage, and raita. Curd is the subcontinent's English translation of dahi.

 

Chauhan explains that raita essentially calls for a combination of good yogurt flavored with vegetables or fruit and dosed with minimal seasoning. He identifies chickpeas, cucumbers, mint and tomatoes as making the most often appearances in North Indian raitas. Sometimes potatoes may be added. Chauhan's wider search of North Indian raita variations yields bananas and pumpkins. He observes that, "with more imagination," he finds mangoes, pomegranates and spinach in North Indian raitas.  Chauhan concludes that the endless variety of North Indian raitas considers all edible fruits and vegetables. In creating unusual raitas, however, he draws "the line at meat," even though one of his cousins grew up with chicken raita.

The Nibble online specialty food magazine describes raita as a "family" of cold "yogurt-based 'salads'" that are distinguished as savory or sweet. Corn, cucumber, eggplant and onion typify savory raita recipes. The Nibble list coconut, grape, mango and pineapple as examples of sweet raita ingredients.

New Delhi-born cookbook author Suvir Saran (born Nov. 29, 1972) features a Grape Raita (page 185) in Indian Home Cooking, which he co-authored with New York Times regional food critic Stephanie Lyness in 2004. He had experienced a recent rediscovery of "this delightfully unusual raita" served at New Delhi's Bukhara Restaurant. (Bukhara appears as number 44 on the March 24, 2020, list of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.) Saran favors Champagne grapes but allows for "any seedless variety" and notes his preference for peeling and halving the grapes for this raita.

Cookbook author and Indian As Apple Pie spice line founder Anupy Singla presents a Soy Yogurt Raita (page 124) in her Vegan Indian Cooking, published as her second cookbook in 2012. She notes that the basic recipe, which calls for cucumber, welcomes "anything and everything," including diced, cooked beets, and explains the addition of non-traditional lemon or lime juice as rounding out, or balancing, the basic recipe's flavor.

In her travels across India, my sister enjoyed sampling the subcontinent's endlessly creative raitas. Her favorite raitas were cucumber raita (kheera raita) and mint raita (pudina raita).

Cucumbers pair well with mint leaves. Oftentimes my sister encountered mint raitas with cucumbers and cucumber raitas with mint leaves.

 

Raita is called a cold yogurt “salad” because it generally includes raw vegetables (cucumbers and tomatoes, for example), although there are sweet and savory versions: Savory Raita Recipes. There are corn raitas, cucumber raitas, eggplant raitas, onion raitas, zucchini raitas and mixed vegetable raitas. Sweet Raita Recipes. There are coconut raitas, mango raitas, pineapple raitas, and many others, such as the grape raita in the photo above.

Read more at: https://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/dishes2.asp
Raita is called a cold yogurt “salad” because it generally includes raw vegetables (cucumbers and tomatoes, for example), although there are sweet and savory versions: Savory Raita Recipes. There are corn raitas, cucumber raitas, eggplant raitas, onion raitas, zucchini raitas and mixed vegetable raitas. Sweet Raita Recipes. There are coconut raitas, mango raitas, pineapple raitas, and many others, such as the grape raita in the photo above.

Read more at: https://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/dishes
homegrown peppermint decoratively thrives in outdoor pot
homegrown peppermint decoratively thrives in outdoor pot

 

The mint (Mentha spp.) genus claims 24 species, according to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's website, Plants of the World Online. NDTV (New Delhi Television) Food writer Sushmita Sengupta explains that the Hindi word pudina refers generically to mint and also specifically to peppermint.

As a hybrid mint, peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a cross between watermint (Mentha aquatica) and spearmint (Mentha spicata). Peppermint has a "stronger and more pronounced flavor" than its parent, spearmint, according to Imperial Sugar's online blog, Sweetalk®. The blog post "What's the Difference between Mint and Peppermint?" identifies spearmint as "usually the mint of choice" for savory recipes. Contrastingly, peppermint's favorable pairing with chocolate and citrus flavors qualifies it as "the herb of choice" for sweetness.

Our family recipe for Mint Raita enhances the dish's texture with diced or grated cucumber. We favor spearmint but sometimes experiment with other mints.

 

Mint Raita


Prep time 10 min  -  Total time 10 min
Ingredients for 4 servings
Serves 4 to 6, according to portion size.
Recipe  5.0/5 Stars (11 Votes)

Ingredients

 

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

   Or: 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, if toasting with cumin seeds

1 large cucumber, peeled and diced or grated

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

   Note: For sweet flavor, use peppermint; for savory taste, use spearmint.

   Or: Experiment with other types, such as apple mint, also known as pineapple mint.

   Note: If garnish is desired, allow for additional, whole leaves.

 

Preparation

 

Dry toast (i.e., no oil) cumin seeds (and black peppercorns, if desired) in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stir until fragrant and slightly browned, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to spice grinder and grind to a powder. Set aside.

 

In a medium bowl, whisk yogurt until smooth.

Stir in cucumber, mint leaves, ground cumin and black pepper. Mix well.

 

Chill well, for about one hour, to blend flavors, if desired.

 

At serving time, garnish with mint sprig, if desired.

 

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to talented photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet.

 

Sources Consulted

 

Asia's 50 Best Restaurants. "#44 Bukhara New Delhi, India." The World's 50 Best Restaurants > Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

Available @ https://www.theworlds50best.com/asia/en/the-list/41-50/bukhara.html

The Ayurveda Experience. "Indian Raita Recipes (Easy Raita Recipes), Raita Pronunciation." The Ayurveda Experience > The Ayurveda Experience Blog. July 15, 2018.

Available @ https://theayurvedaexperience.com/blogs/tae/indian-raita-recipes-easy-raita-recipes-raita-pronunciation

Chauhan, Vasundhara. "Time for Raita." The Hindu > Opinion > Columns > Gourmet Files. March 21, 2015.

Available @ https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Vasundhara_Chauhan/time-for-raita/article7018586.ece

Kaul, Sereena, Alexa & Priya. The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook: Flavours and Spices of India. London UK: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

The Nibble. "Raita Recipe: Famous Yogurt Dishes Are Easy to Make." The Nibble > Product Reviews. March 2005. Last updated February 2012.

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cheese-Butter-Yogurt Raita Recipe Famous Yogurt Dishes Are Easy To Make

Read more at: https://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/dishes2.asp

Available @ https://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/cheese/yogurt/dishes2.asp

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. "Mentha L." Plants of the World Online > Taxon > Family: Lamiaceae Martinov.

Available @ http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:30016176-2

Saran, Suvir. "Cucumber Raita." eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters > eG Forums > India: Cooking & Baking. Feb. 20, 2003.

Available @ https://forums.egullet.org/topic/17184-cucumber-raita/

Saran, Suvir; and Stephanie Lyness. Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, With More Than 150 Recipes. New York NY: Clarkson Potter publishers, 2004.

Sengupta, Sushmita. "What Is The Difference Between Mint And Peppermint?" NDTV (New Delhi Television) Food > Food & Drinks. April 19, 2018.

Available @ https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/what-is-the-difference-between-mint-and-peppermint-1839644

Singla, Anupy. Vegan Indian Cooking: 140 Simple and Healthy Vegan Recipes. Chicago IL: Surrey Books, 2012.

Sweetalk® Blog. "What's the Difference between Mint and Peppermint?" Imperial Sugar > Blog.

Available @ https://www.imperialsugar.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-mint-and-peppermint

 

Patak's Mint and Cucumber Raita:

Gluten-free raita from Patak's, UK-based brand founded in 1957 by wife-and-husband team Gujarati-British entrepreneurs Shanta Pathak and Lakshmishankar Pathak. This product is eligible for Amazon Smile donation.
Patak's Raita Mint & Cucumber - 270g

Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness

Find Suvir Saran's recently rediscovered recipe for Grape Raita from New Delhi's Bukhara Restaurant on page 185.
Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More...

Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla

Anupy Singla's basic recipe, Soy Yogurt Raita, appears on page 124.
Vegan Indian Cooking: 140 Simple and Healthy Vegan Recipes
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning
Updated: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
 
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DerdriuMarriner on 05/05/2021

WriterArtist, Thank you for visiting.
My sister knows India from studying and traveling there. She makes a deliciously healthy raita. You and your family must feel the same way about your raita.

WriterArtist on 04/30/2021

I love Raita,all variations namely Boondi Raita, Cucumber raita etc etc. They are light and good for digestion.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2021

blackspanielgallery, Good questions. Raitas are expected to be served chilled. Items may be heated for softening, such as the boiled, cubed potato raita referenced by pateluday, or they may be reduced to small pieces (for example, by dicing or grating) in an unheated state. Items that are heated are allowed to cool prior to mixing in order not to curdle the yogurt.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2021

frankbeswick, Thank you. It is true that Indian cuisine instills a new way of looking at yogurt. My sister told me that India's yogurt-based recipes impressed her for their healthiness and their versatility. Yogurt interacts well with so many food groups.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2021

pateluday, Thank you. I appreciate your insights and contributions. My sister enjoyed discovering regional variants, all the way down to the microcosm of neighborhoods; she was particularly fascinated by recipe differences, even with the house next door.
It is challenging for me to choose one raita recipe over all others. I chose mint cucumber raita because of its widespread appeal and super easy preparation and its status as my sister's favorite raita.
I agree about liking the boiled potato and black pepper raita. The interaction of black pepper and diced potatoes is aesthetically pleasing and has a great taste.

frankbeswick on 03/02/2021

An interesting article. I had never thought of yoghurt in this way before.

pateluday on 03/02/2021

Great Article! Variety is the gist of Indian cooking you can make one central dish using n number of ingredients and recipes. All main dishes in India have their regional variants which further roll down to the house next to yours. When in an Indian house always ask! What's Cooking? I like raita with boiled potato cubes and black paper powder instead of cumin sprinkled over.

blackspanielgallery on 03/01/2021

Some possible ingredients, like cucumber, suggest a cold dish, yet others like pumpkin suggest a hot dish, and eggplant can be either. Are there temperature options?

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