Boondi Raita (Yoghurt)
Boondi raita is one of the most traditional North Indian raitas, served as part of festive meals and at traditional wedding feasts in Uttar Pradesh (Northern Province). It is easy to make, especially if you buy ready-made 'boondies', available at most Indian grocers. Boondies are tiny, round, crisply fried droplets of besan or gram flour batter. The Hindi word 'boond means 'a drop' and boondi means 'like a drop'. They look a bit like rice crispies. When I was a young doctor in UK, living in hospital digs, I often used to make this raita using rice crispies, which gave a reasonable result. However, raita made of rice crispies has to be eaten on the same day as it gets soggy after a few hours! Serves 4-8
Also see Raita Selection.
Edited December 2019
1/2 cup besan (Bengal gram flour).
A good pinch of baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Water to make batter
Oil for deep frying
For making Raita:
3 cups natural yoghurt or dahi
1 tsp. chilli powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp. roast cumin seeds, coarsely ground.
Place gram flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and add enough water to make a smooth batter. Beat it up well, to trap as much air as possible. This will make boondies lighter.
Heat the oil in a karahi.
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of the batter at a time through a boondi spoon or jhari/jhara, into the centre of the hot oil. While doing this, hold the spoon only 3 to 4 inches above the oil, to avoid splashing hot oil on yourself. Jhari is a large slotted spoon, with round holes**.
Fry boondies on medium heat, turning frequently. They should be light golden colour and crisp when done. Remove using a slotted spoon and place on an absorbent paper. Cool and store. They last a good few months in a freezer.
Soak Boondies in 2 cups of hand warm water for 10-20 minutes. They should become soft. Squeeze water out gently. Keep aside
Beat yoghurt gently, with salt, chilli powder and cumin powder together. It should be of custard consistency. If yoghurt is too thick, add a little milk or water to thin it. Boondies absorb a fair amount of water.
Add boondies and mix gently. The raita should be of custard consistency.
Garnish with a sprinkle of chilli powder and coarsely ground roast cumin. You can also sprinkle a few chopped coriander leaves and chopped green chillies as a garnish.
To roast cumin seeds, heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or iron skillet. Put half a cup of cumin seed on it and dry fry with a wooden spoon until they become darker in colour and you can smell the aroma of roasting aroma. Take out of the pan onto a plate immediately, otherwise they will continue to cook and burn quickly. Cool and grind coarsely. Store in an airtight jar.
*You can buy boondies ready-made from Indian grocers. Surplus amount stays in freezer for quite a long time.
**If you do not have a boondi spoon, you can make a boondi pot yourself; you need a small, plastic yoghurt pot for this. Heat a skewer and make holes into the base of the yoghurt pot. Wash with cold water. Now fill it with batter and allow boondies to drop directly into the oil. Keep it well above hot oil/flame during use, to avoid risk of fire.
Raita can also be tempered tarka): Heat 1 tsp. oil in a ladle, add mustard seeds, 6-7 curry leaves and 2-3 small, whole red chillies. When seeds splutter, pour over the raita.