Minty Cucumber Raita

When your mouth needs cooling down, raita to the rescue! It's actually more effective than water in soothing your taste buds, since the fiery compound in chilies (capsaicin) is oil based and calms down upon contact with dairy. For that reason, I like to offer raita when I'm serving an extra spicy meal. And while not all raitas include the tarka step, I like what tarka does to the flavor and appearance of this classic cucumber version.

Serves 4



1 medium cucumber

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves


1 tablespoon neutral oil

½ teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

5 to 8 fresh curry leaves (1 inch or longer; optional)


Step 1
Prepare the salad: Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds, and coarsely grate it on a box grater. Place it in a colander and give it a squeeze to remove some of the excess water. If you like your raita chunkier, you can finely chop your cucumber instead.

Step 2
In a medium serving bowl, combine the cucumber, yogurt, ground cumin, a few grinds of black pepper, the cayenne, salt, and mint and stir well. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator until just prior to serving.

Step 3
Give the raita a stir as the salt may have drawn out some of the cucumber’s water. If you like your raita loose, now is the time to stir in a tablespoon or two of water to get the consistency you like.

Step 4
Make the tarka: Assemble your measured ingredients by the stove. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the mustard seeds and allow them to pop, occasionally swirling the pan. Add the cumin seeds, swirl the pan, and sizzle for a few seconds. Add the curry leaves and, when they have crackled for a few seconds, pour the tarka over the raita, stir, and serve.