If you have ever visited the lush green hill stations of Kumaon to spend a quiet summer vacation, you might have tasted Pahadi Kheere Ka Raita aka Cucumber Raita. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Kumaon is bestowed with a maze of mountains, lush greenery, and breath-taking landscapes. The culture, cuisine and the rich heritage of the region are still an untold saga to the rest of the world. Many renowned food historians and novelists have captured the essence of the cuisine in their writings, though. From the ancient times, Kumaonis have been famous for their bravery, warrior skills, and enduring honour. Like the persona of the natives, their food is simple, subtle and comprises largely of locally grown greens, vegetables, herbs, and grains.
The cuisine of Kumaon has the perfect balance of nutritious greens, lentils, grains and root vegetables all bestowed by the mother nature. One of the relishes, that is a quintessential part of Kumaoni food is Pahadi Kheere ka Raita. The giant shape and the yellowish skin tone of the Pahadi cucumber make it stands out among the batch of the regular ones. The predominant flavor in the Pahadi Kheere ka Raita is that of tiny pale yellow Pahadi mustard seeds. These mustard seeds are combined with plenty of mustard oil and green chili to escalate the flavours of raita to a new high. Traditionally, this paste for raita is ground in stone mortars and pestles. Often served with Aloo ke Gutke (see recipe here), Pahadi Kheere ka Raita is the most sought-after dish in this region. The first taste impression of Pahadi Kheere ka Raita is like a hit of strong taste, and definitely not subtle at all. Eventually, your palate starts developing a kind of affection with this rare sapor. While traveling across the region, you can buy Pahadi cucumber and mustard from the local flea market. Or, make use of your everyday cucumber if you are not visiting Kumaon any soon.
- 2 Cup yoghurt
- 1 medium - size pahadi kheera cucumber
- 1 tbsp small size pahadi yellow mustard
- 2 green chili
- 1/4 Cup mustard oil
- Half a bunch of coriander leaves chopped
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- To prepare the raita, peel and cut cucumber lengthwise into half.
- Remove the seeds from each piece using a spoon.
Grate the cucumber using a grater , squeeze out all the liquid from the grated cucumber. You can seal the grated cucumber in a muslin cloth and squeeze the excess liquid. Set aside in a bowl.
- Whisk yoghurt to get a smooth consistency. Use a little water to get the desired consistency. Kheere ka raita is usually on a thicker side.
- Now in a stone mortar and pestle, add mustard seeds, green chilli and salt. Grind to a coarse paste.
- Add this paste in the yoghurt along with grated cucumber, mustard oil, coriander leaves, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir to combine.
- For the flavours to mature let the raita sit at room temperature or in the fridge for 10 - 15 minutes or more.
- Serve Kheere ka raita chilled along with Aloo Ke Gutke ( see recipe )