Greek cuisine has tzatziki; Indian cuisine has raita, and Arab cuisine has its own version of this cool and tangy yogurt cucumber salad. A beloved side dish in Lebanon, Turkey and all over the Middle East, this salad is easy to prepare, refreshing and healthy. It’s a perfect accompaniment to rice dishes such as maqluba (rice and chicken) or mujaddara (rice and lentils). It can also be served with bread as part of a mezze table.
Yogurt is a staple food in the Arab kitchen. Made from fermented milk, yogurt is regarded as a health-giving, healing substance. In the Middle East, it’s believed that yogurt aids digestion and contributes to longevity.
For this recipe, use whatever type of yogurt you prefer. I typically use skimmed yogurt, but for guests, I use lowfat. If you prefer the thick and creamy variety, use whole yogurt or substitute part of the yogurt for lebneh or yogurt cheese (strained yogurt).
As for cucumbers, use the small ones available in Middle Eastern and Asian markets, if available, as they are more flavorful and tender. Otherwise, large cucumbers will also work.
When entertaining or pressed for time, this side dish can be prepared in advance. If you’re feeding a crowd, prepare this recipe with a 1 kilo tub of yogurt and use 2½ parts the other ingredients. Below is our family recipe.
Yogurt Cucumber Salad ~ serves 4
2 small cucumbers or 1 large
2 cups (400 g) plain yogurt (skimmed, lowfat, or whole)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried mint
¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh mint leaves (optional garnish)
- Peel and finely chop or shred the cucumbers. Sprinkle with pinch of salt and (time permitting) leave in strainer to drain for 10 – 20 minutes.
- Discard any liquid from the yogurt and mix with the dried mint, garlic, and salt. After cucumbers have drained, mix with yogurt.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately or chill.
Question: How do you like to serve Yogurt Cucumber Salad?