I'm in the midst of preparing an Asian-themed party this weekend. As I was deciding which salad dish to add as a side-menu item, Acar came to my mind. Acar is a spicy mixed vegetable pickle, very common in Malay and Peranakan cuisine.
This is my first attempt in making acar and I adapted the recipe from Kuali:
- 500g cucumber (I used one medium-sized cucumber), removed seeds, cut into 4cm strips
- 150g cabbage leaves, cut into 2.5cm squares
- 150g carrots, cut into 4cm strips
- 150g long beans, cut into 4cm strips
200g cauliflower, cut into small pieces 50g dried prawns, soaked and pounded
- Added: Pineapple - cut into small chunks
- (I did not measure exact weight, just eyeball to make sure that each portion of vegetables is about the same amount as the cucumber. Taste is subjective, if you do not like long beans or cabbage, just replace it with more carrot strips or other suitable vegetables)
- 3 red chillies
3 green chillies 50g young ginger 3 cloves garlic 3 shallots
- 10 fresh chillies (I used 6 only)
- 5 dried chillies
- 10 shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2cm fresh turmeric root
- 1 tbsp sliced galingale (lengkuas) (That's blue ginger, one small piece)
- 3 candlenuts (buah keras)
- 2cm cube toasted belacan or 1 tsp belacan powder
- 1 stalk lemon grass, sliced finely
- 100ml vinegar
- 200ml water (I used 250ml and I find the marinade is not enough to cover all the pickle vegetables, next time increase to 400ml)
- 5 to 6 tbsp sugar (I used 3 tbsp fine sugar and 1 tbsp brown sugar)
- 1 tsp salt
- 100g roasted peanuts, skinned and pounded
- 4 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
- 600ml water (I used 400ml water + 200ml vinegar. Enough to scald the vegetables)
- 400ml vinegar
- 2 tbsp salt (I used 1.5 tbsp)
- 2 tbsp sugar (I used 1.5 tbsp)
Halved and cut into 4cm strips:
For scalding vegetables:
Unless you are making acar for many to share, this recipe yields quite a big portion (enough for a pot-luck party of 15 to 20 people, where it is taken as a small side-dish).
1) Rub cucumber strips with 1 tbsp salt and leave aside for 30 minutes. Rinse with water and squeeze out excess liquid.
2) Rub pineapple chunks with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar. Leave aside for 30 minutes and squeeze out excess liquid (next time I will omit this step, so that the marinade contains the natural pineapple juice from the pineapple).
3) Scalding vegetables: Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar to boil. Blanch carrot, long beans, cabbage (one type at a time) for about 15 seconds, then drain away water. Squeeze out excess water.
4) Place cucumber, carrot, long beans, cabbage (after above steps) in a large baking tray. Sun for a few hours or I bake them in the oven at 80C (with fans on) for about 25 minutes [Note: Not sure whether sunning or baking the vegetables is necessary (This is to remove excess water and makes the pickles crunchy). But at Kuali, the vegetables were sun first, then blanched. It seems a little strange for me, why sun the vegetables first (to dry up), and then get the vegetables wet again??(when blanched)].
5) Fry the grind chilli paste: Heat about 4 tbsp oil in wok and fry the paste till fragrant and colour darkens. Stir in vinegar and water. Add sugar and salt and bring the mixture to a boil, then leave to cool completely.
6) Stir in the prepared vegetables and most of the crushed roasted peanuts/ sesame seeds (reserved some for garnish at serving) till well combined. Store in porcelain jar/container (I keep in the fridge). Allow time for the marinade, vegetables and flavours to combine together. Serve the next day.
After marinating the acar for about 24 hours, I did a taste test. The vegetables have fully absorbed the marinates, yet they retain the crunchiness. I wish I had added more pineapples! This recipe is not too spicy, certainly at "one chilli" level of spiciness. Not too sour for me, but can
increase the sugar to another tablespoon more next time and with (after a few days, the acar is not as sour as on the first day of testing) more pineapples, I think it will taste even better!