In India, rice is always served with something wet and flowing because it is considered too dry on its own. The exception is a rich biryani, but even that is offered with a raita and salads. The wetness deemed necessary could come from a curry with a sauce, a dal, or maybe just some melted ghee. Of course, it could also come from this thin yogurt sauce, known in the south as “mor kozhambu.” The thickening, slight as it is, is provided by either chickpea flour or rice flour. Quite often in the south, it is eaten last, with rice and pickles. (This always reminds me of how the Japanese like to end their meals—with rice, pickles, and tea!)

    There are hundreds of variations to this recipe. I find this one delicious and easy to make. I like to serve it with stir-fried eggplant cooked in Tamil Nadu style, plain rice, and a dal. It is best to pour it into small, individual bowls.

    As with the preceding recipe, the yogurt here needs to be fairly sour. You can leave it in a warm spot for 24 hours or longer until it has soured a bit, or use an acidophilus yogurt, which is already sour.

    This recipe may easily be doubled.

    SERVES 2–3

    • 2 cups plain yogurt (do not use Greek yogurt here)
    • 2 teaspoons rice flour (also called rice powder) or chickpea flour (besan or gram flour)
    • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
    • ¾ teaspoon sambar powder (get a good South Indian brand, like MTR)
    • ⅓–½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
    • 1 teaspoon olive or peanut oil
    • Generous pinch of ground asafetida
    • ½ teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
    • ¼ teaspoon whole fenugreek seeds
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
    • 1 fresh hot green chili, finely chopped (optional)

    1. Put the yogurt in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Slowly add 2 cups of water, whisking as you go.

    2. In a separate bowl, mix the rice or chickpea flour with a tablespoon or so of water to make a smooth paste. Add to the yogurt, along with the turmeric, sambar powder, and salt, and whisk again.

    3. Put the oil in a small pan and set it over medium heat. When hot, add the asafetida and then the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop in a matter of seconds, add the fenugreek seeds. Stir once, then pour in the yogurt sauce. Keep stirring and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Let the sauce simmer on a low heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring all the time.

    4. Add the fresh cilantro and green chilies (if using) and stir once.