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  • Rohan Kamicheril

Lal Bhoplyacha Raita | Red Pumpkin Raita

Mustard oil is one of those ingredients over which people seem to feel very divided in India. It’s a staple of many of India’s most ingenious and delicious cuisines, and yet, for many people who didn’t grow up with it, it’s a flavor that can be hard to get accustomed to. I find myself in the crosshairs of this controversy because I grew up thinking I disliked mustard oil because my mother does, only to find, now that I’m an adult, that it’s a flavor I just can’t get enough of. All of this is even stranger to explain to someone from the West since mustard oil basically doesn’t exist once you get here. The few places that sell it are often forced to put warnings on their packaging that tell you that the oil isn’t fit for consumption—the conclusion of many dietary experts in the West. I’m not here to opine on these studies one way or the other, just to let you know that mustard oil is delicious, and there are scores of communities in India that have eaten it as part of their traditional cooking for generations.

All of that lengthy preamble aside, this marvelous and exceedingly simple raita is a wonderful and unexpected way to showcase the fiery heat of mustard oil and crushed black mustard seed—set against the sweetness of pumpkin and the cooling richness of yoghurt. As with the recipe for lal bhopyachi bhaji, this recipe comes from the grandmother of my friend Aditi Halbe. Though Aditi tells me that it’s traditional to season the raita with a vaghaar of asafoetida, black mustard, and turmeric, I’m partial to the simplicity of a simple drizzle of raw mustard oil over the top of the finished raita.

Lal Bhoplyacha Raita | Red Pumpkin Raita

Serves 3–4 people as a side dish


1 cup dense winter pumpkin such as koginut, Hokkaido, or Kabocha, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tsp black mustard seed, coarsely crushed in a mortar

2 small green chillies, finely chopped

1 cup whole fat yoghurt

3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

Mustard oil to garnish


Steam the squash until it is soft enough to crush with the side of a spoon.

In a medium bowl, mash together the squash, ½ tsp salt, the green chillies, and black mustard seeds with a fork till well mixed.

Stir in the yoghurt and cilantro and mix well.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt as needed.

Drizzle with a teaspoon of raw mustard oil. Set aside for at least half an hour before eating, to allow the flavors to meld.

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