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!


Achar in Southeast Asia is a spiced pickle, it is easily made within a few minutes and is addictive
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Servings: 4 Asians
Author: Pamela Liu
Cost: 2


  • 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

Vinegar solution

  • 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!