With my current obsession with making pickles (as seen in my last post on Korean Kimchi), this is the one that I truly felt is my duty to introduce it to all pickle lovers out there. Achar is not that common to come across outside of Southeast Asia, which is a real shame. It is brimful with aromatic fragrant from the roasted peanuts and sesame seeds which make it absolutely delicious and moreish.
Achar formed part of the two cornerstone in every Nyonya meal, the other being Sambal belachan (Spicy chilli paste). It is served as a key side dish and the Peranakan has such high regard for it that it is also given out as a cherished gifts to friends and family during festive seasons. Achar was traditionally served in brightly coloured and decorative china pot known as Kamchengs which always looked rather grand on a dining table.
Like Korean kimchi, this pickle are best left to ferment slowly at a cool temperature as this helps to develop a richer flavours and will taste much crisper. The turmeric give it a beautiful sunset glow and the chillies provide the piquant kick. By blanching all the vegetables in vinegar before mixing, it helps to take the raw edge off the vegetable and also kick-start the 'pickling' process. You don't really need to add any liquid to the pickle as they tends to release lots of moisture as they mature.
If you are a huge pickle fan and are dying to try your hand on something new and different, give this crisp, nutty and piquant recipe a go. I can assure you that you won't regret it and pretty soon you will find yourself nibbling at this constantly like I do.
Once made, this can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a month or in the refrigerator or up to six months.
Ingredients (makes enough to fill 2 x 2L jars)
250g cauliflower, breaks into tiny florets
600g cucumber, soft centre removed and cut into 2.5cm batons
150g snake/long beans, cut into 2.5cm length (substitute with french beans if not available)
250g carrots, cut into 2.5cm batons
150g white cabbage, cut into 2.5cm strips
4 large red chillies, cut into 2.5cm strips
4 large green chillies, cut into 2.5cm strips
200g peanuts, roasted, skinned and finely chopped in a food processor
100g sesame seed, toasted
4 heads of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
400ml white or rice vinegar
1tbsp salt or more, to taste
sunflower or vegetable oil
For the rempah/spice paste:
20 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water to soften
2 tbsp ground turmeric
The day before you are making the achar, prepare all the vegetables. Spread them out in a large tray and leave in a warm room or alternatively, in the sun, for a day until they are dry to touch and slightly shrivelled.
Bring the vinegar to a boil in a deep pan or wok, blanch all the vegetables, a small batch at time, for a few seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and transfer onto a large tray to cool. Make sure to bring the vinegar back to the boil each time before the next batch is added in.