There are many variations of acar, which is a sort of pickling the vegetables, usually with vinegar, salt and water (or brine). The acar I was accustomed to was the localised version with more pungent flavours that would linger in our memory and tastebud for a long, long time.
As far as I could remember, the pickled cucumbers I grew up snacking were most popularly served at festive occasions, in particular, the Chinese New Year. I had mentioned in my post here, that this morsel of a dish is one of my many favourites. Here’s how I like to nibble on my acar timun 😀
Those schoolgirl days…
I remembered having to rush after school, on the third day of Chinese New Year, house visiting my Chinese schoolmates and relatives. I remembered my cousin and I eyeing for Aunt Maureen’s delicious acar chilli nyonya, stuffed with the most delicious and tasty filling of sundried grated young papaya, green chillies, dried shrimps and all the spices and pickling ingredients. Mmmmm….. yummy!
Then there’s the acar timun, which incredibly go so well with prawn crackers (keropok). We were one satisfied customer and nothing else mattered, so to speak…
The crisper the better… S.W.A.T … and a miracle…
Making acar timun is not that simple as you think. It involves a whole lot of “physical” energy and strength. A connoisseur of the finest tasting acar timun could distinguish between a top notch nosh and a badly made one.
“The crisper the vegetables the superior the taste of the acar timun” seemed to be the chanting phrase from any acar timun addict.
To make the crispy effect, the vegetables need to be cut in strips or julienned and then sprinkled with some salt and let stand in a colander for at least 2 hours or until the vegetables become limp and water dripping from the colander. The subsequent step involved S.W.A.T – Special “Weapon” And Tactics.
I have heard of several artistic ways of making the vegetables crispy. One of my classmates Mum actually used the back tyres of her car to squeeze out the excess water from the salted vegetables, but of course packed in strong tea towels or even sarongs! The more common method is simply drying the vegetables under very hot sun, and making sure that every portion is tossed and turned to completely dry out the vegetables.
And by the way, my S.W.A.T is my bare hands. I must have soiled and damaged at least two new tea towels. LOL
The chilli. The salt. The onion, garlic. OMG! My hands were screaming for life. If you’re at it, there was no turning back. I could use a pair of gloves, but I did not, however, a miraculous thing happened to me. A wart that I had since I was a child on one of my fingers was completely gone as a result of the wringing madness. I kid you not!
Here’s my version of Acar Timun (Pickled Cucumber) adapted from the cookbook “Traditional Malaysian Cuisine: A Rich Selection in Culinary Heritage”
- 2 cucumbers
- 1 carrot
- 1 red chilli
- 1 large onion
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 8 dried chillies
- 8 shallots
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 cm piece ginger
- 3 candlenuts
- ½ cup dried shrimps
- ½ cup oil
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ cup vinegar (I used the Chinese white wine vinegar, to taste)
- 3 ½ Tbsp sugar (to taste)
- Cut cucumbers and carrot into 2 ½ cm strips. Cut the red chillies into 5 cm strips and the large onion into 5 cm wedges.
- Sprinkle salt over the cut vegetables and let them stand for at least 2 hours.
- When the vegetables are limp, wash away the salt and spread them on a clean tea towel in a cool place to dry. (After which I wring out the excess water with my bare hands)
- Grind together the chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger and candlenuts. Pound the dried prawns.
- Heat the oil and fry the mustard seeds for ½ minute before adding in the ground ingredients and turmeric powder. Fry for another 5 minutes.
- When the oil separates, add in the dried prawns and continue cooking for another 3 minutes before adding the vinegar and sugar.
- Cook slowly until the mixture is fairly thick. Add in more salt and sugar if necessary.
- Stir in the prepared vegetables and toss quickly to mix well. When the vegetables are well mixed with the spices, remove the pan from the heat.
- Cool slightly before storing in clean, dry jars. (I used sterilized airtight jars)
To end my “GINGER” post for the blog hop-over event, I am submitting this write-up to the following –
- Little Thumbs up event for the month of July hosted by Alvin from Chef and Sommelier, organized by Doreen from my little favourite DIY and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.
See you soon 😉