Some time back, I had an inkling for some pickles. Soenke, my husband extraordinaire, loves pickles. Gherkins, to be precise. I only enjoy them in burgers and sandwiches. Never as a snack, never by itself. The pickles I crave for are of a Southeast Asian variety. Memories tell me that the palate sensations of crunchiness, sweetness, sourness, spiciness and nuttiness equals total syokness or enjoyment. At the same time, I needed something to go with our dinner. Thus, letting me narrow down on to acar.
Having not made this before (Mom didn’t make this either in the past), I went to my best friend, Google, for help. Google brought me to this website, Rasa Malaysia, for the recipe. I had followed roughly the recipe for the spice paste (It sounded too spicy to me!) and opted for my own choice of suspects for pickling in my acar. Also made some changes here and there to create the acar as pictured in my head. That said, thank you Rasa Malaysia for the inspiration.
Here is an adapted version of the acar recipe (I apologize for not being able to provide an accurate weight on some of the ingredients, please use the famous Malaysian methodology of “agak-agak”. Heck, even Gordon Ramsay had to learn that!):
1 medium cucumber, cut lengthwise with seeds and skin intact
1 medium carrot, cut lengthwise
200g baby french beans, head and end removed and halved lengthwise
1 small pineapple, peeled and cut into mini wedges
100g roasted, crushed peanuts (Peanutty goodness, still with a bite)
5 tablespoons oil
Salt, to taste
Chinese rice vinegar, to taste
Brown sugar, to taste
Arugula/rocket leaves, to serve
4 fresh chillies (2 red finger chillies + 2 bird’s eye chillies)
2-3 tablespoons of turmeric powder (This really depends on how yellow you want your acar to be, and of course, too much of it would mean the turmeric taste will be more apparent.)
2 candle nuts
Tamarind pulp, about golf ball size
1 cup of water
Soak tamarind pulp in water for 15 minutes. Squeeze and extract juice. Set aside.
Blend spice paste and set aside. Heat up wok and add oil. Stir-fry spice paste until aromatic. Add tamarind juice and bring a boil. Add vinegar, salt and sugar to taste. Add all fruit and vegetables in to the wok and switch off the heat source. Add crushed peanuts and mix well.
Dish out and refrigerate for some hours or overnight before serving.
(Note: During the “pickling” process, I had tasted the acar and found the taste not contrasting enough for me. I used about 3 tablespoons of sugar and 5 tablespoons of vinegar to bring out the sweet, spicy and sour tastes. Sugar also help the fruit and vegetables stay crisp and crunchy.)
Shown in the picture, I had used some arugula leaves to go with the acar. Interesting fusion but it works. The fresh leaves with its peppery flavors go down just nicely with the sweet, sour, nutty, spicy flavors of the acar. Try it!