My family used to eat this lovely Nyonya Acar (Nyonya Pickles) once a year. My mother and grandmother would make this acar for the Chinese New Year reunion dinner. The reason why we only make this once a year is due to the time consuming preparation. There's the job of cutting and slicing the vegetables and a whole lot of shallots need to be peeled. The very thought of that is enough to bring tears to your eyes.
This dish is usually eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal or can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack. There are many recipes and preparation methods. I understand that the proper way is to blanch the vegetables and then dry them in the sun to make them crunchy. My mother and grandmother skipped this step and as long as it does not compromise on the flavor of the dish, I suppose it is alright.
It is important that your vegetables are fresh to ensure crunchiness and be sure to remove the pith of the cucumbers and salt them to remove excess water. You should also prepare the acar one day ahead of serving to enable the vegetables to be properly pickled and to give the spice paste enough time to develops its flavors. Don't ever serve this on the day it is made or you will be disappointed.
- 2 cucumbers
- 2 carrots
- 6 long beans
- 2 red and 2 green chillies, sliced (optional)
- 10 shallots peeled and left whole (optional)
Note : You can also put cabbage and cauliflower.
Spice paste :
- 15 shallots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red chilli (more if you like spicy)
- 4 dried chillies (more if you like, soaked to soften)
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 inch tumeric (kunyit)
- 2 candlenuts (buah keras)
- Belacan (1 heaped tablespoon if using granules)
Palm sugar (gula Melaka)
Roasted peanuts (coarsely pounded)
Sesame seeds (toasted)
1. Cut cucumber into four and remove the pith.
2. Cut cucumbers into strips and rub with salt. Drain in colander for about 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Squeeze excess water from cucumbers and set aside.
4. Peel carrots and cut into strips.
5. Cut long beans into 1 inch length.
6. Blend spice paste ingredients and saute until aromatic.
7. Pour in tamarind juice, vinegar, palm sugar and sugar. Let boil until mixture is slightly thick.
8. Taste the mixture and adjust if necessary. It must be salty, sweet and sour. And let the taste be more intense ie saltier, sweeter and more sour because the vegetables will bleed water and dilute the flavors.
9. Add the long beans first and mix. After about 5 minutes, add in the rest of the vegetables and stir to mix for about another 5 minutes.
10. Remove and put into container. Mix once in a while to ensure that the vegetables are evenly coated with spice paste. Once cooled, put in the fridge.
1. I did not rinse the cucumber after squeezing out the water because the water that oozed out has diluted the salt and also I want the cucumber to be slightly salty.
2. The amount of tamarind juice and vinegar should be enough to cover the vegetables and I used half tamarind juice and half vinegar.
3. Before serving, mix the acar thoroughly and taste. Adjust for sweet, sour and salty if necessary.
4. Add the roasted peanuts and sesame seeds and mix. Sprinkle more on top if you like.
|Cut long beans to about one inch length.|
|Vegetables ready to be pickled.|
|Mix well to ensure even coating and pickling.|
|Ready to serve.|