Achar in Southeast Asia is a spiced pickle. My mother makes this a lot, and she loves to eat achar. When she comes to my house, she will look into the fridge and see what we have and then a bottle of achar will result. We keep the achar in a bottle and it is always a hit.
I always toast the nuts and sesame again just prior to making the achar, it gives that extra aroma. That is secret #1. The second secret I have which is quite special: I add dried shrimps/prawns or hebi. It is ridiculously fragrant and wonderful!
Have a bottle at hand always.
Today, I made it because I didn’t like the way the chicken rice looks even though our Hainanese chicken rice is always wonderful. It looks so washed out, but nothing a nice colorful bottle of achar cannot fix.
This is a fun thing to do with the kids, just hold the chillies. Decorating with the achar ingredients can be so satisfying too!
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp salt
Spices paste (grind everything to a paste or use the mortar and pestle)
- 1/2 cup onions roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 fresh chillies
- 4 dried chillies (optional) soaked in hot water for half an hour or so
- 20 g belachan preferably toasted on a dry pan (toasting is optional)
- 1 piece turmeric (thumb size) can be replaced by 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 75 ml white vinegar
- A pinch salt
Veggies (choose anything you like, in any combination!)
- 2 Cucumber cut like matchstick or any size you like!
- 2 carrot
- 1/2 cabbage of any color
- 1/2 cauliflower
- 1/2 cup beans
- 1/2 cup pineapple sliced the way you like!
- any peppers of any color seeds removed and sliced the way you like
- 2 tbsp toasted ground peanuts
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tbsp dried prawns/shrimp pounded and fried optional - this is my secret ingredient
- Soak all the cut up vegetables with the 2 tablespoon of salt and leave it aside.
- Grind the paste and heat up the oil to medium heat.
- Add the spice paste to the oil and fry until oil exudes from the paste. This takes about 10 minutes at medium to low heat.
- Scoop up the paste and leave aside.
- Mix the vinegar solution.
- Squeeze water out of the vegetables and add the spice paste and vinegar solution to it.
- Top with toppings and stir through.
- Serve with anything you like!