Raita is to Indian cooking as tsatsiki is to Greek cuisine—a traditional dip or side dish of yogurt and cucumbers, seasoned in this case with cumin and cayenne.
Dry-roasting the cumin seeds in a hot skillet lends an authentic roastiness to the flavor here, so don’t skip this step. After the seeds have cooled down, grind them coarsely (not to a powder) in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
This recipe, adapted from Eat Smart in India: A Travel Guide for Food Lovers, by Joan Peterson and Indu Menon (Gingko Press, 2004), is suitable as a soothing cold sauce with spicy Indian curries and other dishes. Or try it as a simple dip for the Indian flatbread called naan.
1. Dry-roast the cumin seeds in a small frying pan until they turn dark brown. Cool, then coarsely grind them.
2. Mix all ingredients together in a serving bowl.
3. Chill before serving.