In my hometown of Malaysia, this dish too is a pickle which is made up of various types of vegetables in a spicy sauce. Each Peranakan family would have their own family recipe where Acar is concerned. In fact the Acar found in Penang and that in Malacca varies as well. But whatever it is, it is delicious especially if eaten with rice. Sometimes it is served together with Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice) another typical Malaysian dish.
However the process of puting this dish together is somewhat labourious and therefore you cannot compare the homemade version to that found sold in supermarkets. The ground spices need to be prepared and there is lot of cutting and slicing involved. But once the dish is put together, you will be glad that you had put in such an effort because it is really delicious!
In the days of my grandmother, I remember that she would make Acar quite often especially when Chinese New Year was around the corner. In those days, a food processor was non-existent and a mortar and pestel was used instead. The blanched and cut vegetables would be strewn out onto wooden weaved rattan baskets and dried under the sun before it was drenched in the spicy sauce. Nowadays recipes of our grandmothers are shortened and quick-easy shortcuts are taken. Thinking back I really do miss some of the dishes my grandmother had made!
Makes about 2.5kg
Recipe Adapted from "Malaysian" by Betty Saw
Ingredients to be cut:
1.25kg cucumber, half lengthwise, center core removed and cut into 1.5" long strips
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1.5" long strips
300g long beans, cut into 1.5" length
500g chinese cabbage, cut into 2.5" square pieces
300g cauliflower, cut into bit size florets
600g roasted peanuts, skin removed, and coarsely grounded
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp salt
450ml white vinegar
500ml cooking oil
Ingredients to be grinded (A):
20 pieces dried chillies soaked to soften
6 red chillies
Ingredients to be grinded (B):
360g shallots, peeled
1 bulb garlic, peeled
1" piece fresh tumeric, peeled
1" piece fresh galangal, peeled
1) Place cucumber and carrot strips in a bowl. Mix weall with 1 Tbsp salt and leave for 30 minutes. Then wash thoroughly with water and drain. Using a piece of muslin cloth, squeeze out as much water as possible from the vegetable strips.
2) Half fill a large pot with water, add half of the vinegar and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt to the water. Then blanch the vegetables in batches for about 4 minutes. Remove and transfer to a colander, drain well.
3) Lay the blanced vegetables out in the sun to dry for about 30 minutes. If there is no sun, place them under a fan to dry out for about 90 minutes
4) Heat a large wok or large frying pan. Add the oil and once hot, fry ground ingredients (A) for 2 minutes. Then add in ground ingredients (B) and fry until fragrant and the oil separates - about 10 minutes. Add remaining vinegar, sugar and 1 tsp of salt. Stir in the peanuts and mix thoroughly.
5) Last add in the vegetables and stir well. Keep acar overnight in the refrigerator for the flavours to develop. To serve, dish out and add a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.
* Acar can be kept in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.