Kela Raita

When it came time to make another recipe (this one from page 215) from this well-loved cookbook from one of our favorite Indian restaurants in the Bay Area, I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed that my option was Kela Raita. Keep in mind, I knew nothing about kela raita and clearly my ignorance about Indian cuisine was about to shine through.

I was just disappointed. The recipe did not appear to have flash or pizzazz. (I like a little flash and pizzazz). It threatened to be sweet (what, with the banana). And it presented itself as just boring old yogurt and banana. It hardly seemed worth mentioning in an individual blogpost.

I like I said: I knew nothing.

But I love raita, that thick yogurt side dish that could be a condiment, could be a salad, could be a dip. Raita helps temper the tongue-searing effects of curries, and I love the spiciness of the toasted cumin and black mustard seeds present in all raitas, so what was my problem?

Mostly, it’s that I don’t particularly care for bananas in things. Oh, I love bananas in general, especially if they are slightly under-ripe and not so sweet; I have even been known to throw banana into a fruit salad, one might even say, with a sense of abandon. Sure, they’re the base of many a smoothie in these here parts, but you can’t really taste them once I throw in the kale and the strawberries and the almond milk.

But I don’t like banana cream pie, I am not a fan of banana pudding, and don’t even talk to me about banana bread. Something about the cloying sweetness of bananas with their own muted creaminess just doesn’t fit my palate. I just didn’t think I would like it much in a raita.

But I was wrong, so wrong.

I was well rewarded by the spiciness of the mustard seeds, the unctuousness of the oil, the slight sweetness of the banana, and the creaminess of the yogurt. I was reminded again that I am an ignorant fool.

You can make this raita as thick as you please—the more fat in the yogurt, the creamier your side dish. You could even drain the yogurt in a fine-mesh sieve to achieve thicker yogurt before adding all of your goodies.

Or you can just skip that entirely in order to get the raita to your table as soon as possible.

Which is what we did.

And let’s be clear: there was no raita left at the end of the meal.


Kela Raita

Adapted from  Ajanta Cookbook

8-10 servings

1tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds
1 dry red chile pepper, cut to pieces no larger than 1/4 inch
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 banana, peeled and cut into 1/4-to1/2-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground, toasted cumin

1.  Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan.  When hot, add mustard seeds and red chile pepper.  The oil sould be hot enough that mustard seeds pop.  Turn the heat off as soon as mustard seeds stop popping, about 5-10 seconds.

2.  Mix the remaining ingredients except cumin and stir well to incorporate.

3.  Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle cumin on top.

3.  Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and serve cold.


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