Achar (Nyonya Pickles)
Achar (acar) or pickled spicy vegetables is a popular appetizer in South East Asian cuisine (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia). With its sour, spicy and sweet taste, this is a great appetite booster which complements almost any meal. It’s really affordable to make your own achar as the ingredients are cheap and commonly found in the market. You will also be rewarded with quite a lot of these pickled vegetables! But the process, especially the slicing and air drying, can be quite tedious. Fortunately I have always found cutting vegetables therapeutic! The hard work is definitely worth it at the end of the day, as home-made achar tastes better, crunchier, and very customizable (more or less sweet, sour and spicy) to suit your family’s taste buds.
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In this recipe, the cucumber, carrot, cabbage and pineapple is a common acar mix in Singapore. In the Penang Nyonya version, long beans and eggplants are often added too. They go well with steamed rice or coconut rice (nasi lemak), and also as a side condiment for almost any Asian meal. Check out the pictorial step-by-step below (click on the photos to view full size), or head over to the next page for the printable recipe with the ingredient measurements and steps.
|Click on photo to view full size|
|Note: This is a pictorial step-by-step guide. Ingredients, seasonings and measurements are at the “Printable Recipe” link above.|
|Cut cucumber into 3.5 cm sections (crosswise). Quarter each section (lengthwise) by cutting around and discarding the seed block. Slice thinly. Coat sliced cucumber with salt for 1 hour.|
|After an hour, rinse cucumber and place them in a coconut squeezer bag. Wring out excess water. Spread out cucumber on a wide plate. Air dry for one hour.|
|Peel carrot and cut into 3.5 cm sections (crosswise). Halve each section (lengthwise) and slice thinly. Stack the slices and cut to thin matchsticks.|
|Coat carrot with salt for 1 hour. After an hour, rinse carrots and pat dry on paper towels. Spread out cut carrot on a wide plate. Air dry for one hour.|
|Cut cabbage into bite-sized pieces and coat evenly with salt for an hour. After an hour, rinse cabbage and pat dry on paper towels. Spread out cabbage on a wide plate. Air dry for one hour.|
|Cut pineapple flesh to small chunks.|
|What the achar vegetables look like, when mixed together after air-drying. They are ready for the pickling.|
|While waiting for the vegetables to air dry, prepare the achar spices by cutting them to appropriate sizes as stated in the recipe on the next page.|
|In a food processor, blend spices into a smooth paste. Note: You may also use a mortar and pestle. Transfer paste to a stain-proof bowl and mix in tumeric powder.|
|In a wok, stir fry to cook achar paste until aromatic.|
|Add seasonings, mix well and bring to a simmer.|
|Turn off the stove. Stir in prepared vegetables, peanuts and sesame seeds. Season to taste.|
|When cooled, store achar in sealed glass containers, refrigerated. Allow the achar to pickle overnight before consuming.|