“Achar, the best side dish for me!”

Helloooooo… Long time no post and hope you miss me (chuckles). I promised one of my readers who requested Achar recipe on my FaceBook to post the recipe for her soon. And, I hope this doesn’t come too late for her liking. :) Achar is known to be a Nyonya dish, but well-liked by many other Asian dialects, too. This is an Asian-style pickled vegetables dish which tastes sweet and sourish with a little bit of spicy flavour in it. Achar goes so well with plain porridge, rice, nasi lemak, fried bee hoon, or even to be eaten on its own!

Blanch and Squeeze dry the vegetables till really dry. Simply pat dry the pineapples.

Cooking Achar is simple, but the preparation is not so. It involves many steps, from making the seasoning paste (rempah) till cooking the dish… Preparation usually takes up to 1 hour while cooking the dish takes only 5 minutes to complete. As for my version of Achar, I’ve added my open-secret trick to this recipe, the blanching of vegetables including cucumber. Many recipes used just the raw vegetables and they find it taste equally great, but I prefer the additional blanching step (but of course a MUST to squeeze-dry them after that). To me (taught by my mum), the blanching is an important step to retain the crunchiness of the vegetables for even longer time! The standing procedure of the dish is also essential in making the Achar. It is best to store the Achar for more than a day (in the refrigerator) before consumption. This is to ensure the spice flavouring has been fully sponge-in by the vegetables.

Sound complicated? But seriously, it’s worth all the effort!

Leave the freshly cooked Achar to cool and fully sponge-in all its flavour

Ingredients
1 large cucumber, halved and trimmed the seeds portion, sliced into form of small (thick) sticks (do not peel the skin)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into form of small sticks
½ small cabbage, cut into pieces
½ sweet pineapple, peeled and sliced into small pieces

Blend all the spices into paste

Seasoning/ Spice paste:
5 shallots, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ thumbsize of blue ginger aka galangal (南姜), thinly sliced
5 candlenuts aka buah keras
1 stick of lemon grass, sliced, lengthwise
5-8 dried chilis (amount adjustable to your spicy taste)
10 gram of belacan, toasted (or pan-fried on a low-heated dry pan without oil)

1 tablespoon of tumeric powder
½ cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed from 1 lemon)
100 gram of white rice vinegar (About ½ cup)
7-8 heaping tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of cooking oil

Garnishing
2 tablespoons of white sesame, toasted (on dry pan with low heat)
3 tablespoons of coarsely grounded peanut

Tools/ Equipments needed
1 large clean kitchen cloth Electric blender

Method
1) Wash and rinse the vegetables. Heat a large pot of water to blanch all the vegetables (Cucumber, carrot and cabbage, but not the fruit – pineapple) for 3 minutes. Remove and drain the blanched vegetables.

2) Use a large cloth, place the vegetables on it. Wrap and squeeze-dry the vegetables till really dry. Do in batches till all complete. Set aside for later.

3) As for the pineapple slices, use a clean kitchen towel to gently pat dry will do. Set aside together with the vegetables.

4) Get ready the electric blender, gather the seasoning ingredients (shallot, garlic, blue ginger, candlenuts, lemon grass, dried chili, toasted belacan), add and blend into paste. This will be the rempah paste we need.

5) Heat wok with oil on medium-low fire. Add rempah paste and tumeric powder. Stir to combine till fragrant. Return blanched and dried vegetables as well as the pineapple. Add in lemon juice, vinegar and sugar. Stir to combine.

* To best suit your liking, add only half the amount of vinegar/ lemon juice and sugar. Taste it, and gradually add more until your desired flavour.

6) Add salt and stir to combine well. Heat off and leave it to cool for about 1 hour. Before transferring into storage container, sprinkle sesame seed and peanut. Stir gently to combine well. Now, transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator overnight before consumption. May also sprinkle more ground peanut on top, when serve.

1 tablespoon of Achar counts about 30kcal.
Tips: Blue ginger (galangal) is not blue in color. It resembles the usual young ginger with mild pinkish appearance in its flesh.
* Candlenuts (buah keras) are easily available in most Asian supermarket, wet markets and provision shops. It is usually sold in packets. A packet of 150gram costs less than S$2.
* If desired, add also long beans (about 5 – 6), same procedure applies.