Laban (yogurt) based dips and sauces are found across the Middle East and Indian subcontinent (for example, raita or pachadi) or the popular Greek ‘tzatziki’, and are an accompaniment to many dishes – such as kibbeh, fritters, or just as a stand-alone dip for bread or vegetables. Kh’yar (or Khiyar, or Khyar) bi Laban is one of those dips that seems to go with nearly anything. In our family my mother usually makes this yogurt sauce to accompany (fried) salmon croquettes. The cooling aspect of the yogurt and cucumber are often a great accompaniment to dishes with ‘warmer’ spices like cinnamon, coriander, and cumin – and provide balance to the meal.
The key to this dish is using the right cucumbers: Persian cucumbers are preferred, but if you can only find English cucumbers you’ll need to halve and scoop out the watery, inner bits – otherwise you’ll find this dip becomes more like a soup. It’s best prepared right before serving – but if you need to make it ahead of time you can always add a little extra yogurt if the cucumber liquid thins it out too much. This is also a great place to use extra toum you might have on hand – if you don’t, grind your garlic cloves and salt together in a mortar and pestle to create a fine paste to be added to the dip.
Kh’yar bi Laban (Levantine Cucumber Yogurt Dip)
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (285g)
- 2 Persian cucumbers, finely chopped (or one small English cucumber, inner seeds scooped out and finely chopped)
- 2 garlic cloves (or 2 tsp toum, if you have it on hand)
- ½ tsp sea salt (or more, to taste)
- 2 tsp fresh spearmint, finely chopped plus more for garnish, if desired
- 2 tsp dried spearmint
- ½ lemon zested
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Finely chop your cucumber into small pieces. I like to quarter lengthwise, then halve each 'spear' once again lengthwise, then chop into pieces. If using an English cucumber, be sure to scoop out and discard the watery seeds before chopping.
- In a mortar and pestle grind your salt and garlic cloves until a paste forms.
- Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Garnish with more fresh mint and serve. Can be stored for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.