Fantastic article from the New York Times on the importance of the Indian raita. Ever since I came back from study abroad (in 1998-oouch that was a long time ago) I have been addicted to the indian spiced up yogurt with nice bits of cucumber, onion, cilantro, and tomatoes. I think I first realized I was becoming an addict when I was given a side of raita to accompany fresh aloo-paratha. And then, mixing it with moong dal with a splash of lemon juice. But now I eat it iwth everything.
Anyway, from the article:
RAITA is salad, relish, dip and side dish in one, a terrific addition to the summer repertory. Served as a condiment in India, this cooling yogurt concoction requires no cooking and is quickly made with common ingredients. No one knows whether raita came about as a way to offset India's spicy dishes or to integrate yogurt and its valuable proteins into vegetarian meals. But what is important to us now is that raita is equally useful in meals with and without meat.
Nor should you employ raita in exclusively Indian ways. It is terrific as a dip for flatbread, or, when made extra thick, an alternative to potato salad or coleslaw.
The basic recipe here is usually not eaten as is but as the foundation for other raitas. There are sweet raitas, some that are downright fiery and many that are given more texture with the addition of chopped onion, cucumber or bell pepper, and a burst of flavor from fresh herbs like mint and cilantro. There are infinite variations, and you can take them in almost any direction you like.
I have found raita to be even good in burritos. Now that is food fusion.