When I was a young girl, my grandmother used to make a special salad which is famously known as acar in Malaysia. It is pickled vegetables mixed into a spicy peanut dressing. The taste is hot, sweet and sour at the same time. Best eaten cold, it keeps several days in the refrigerator. My gran is no longer here and I have searched a long time for a recipe that taste similar to hers. Below is one recipe that comes close. It is called the acar Nyonya. A lot of recipes called for vegetables to be dried under the sun for crunchiness but I found that they are still crunchy even though I did not run them.
- 1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise, run a knife along the centers and cut away the soft flesh of seedlings. When you have done that, cut each quarter into halves lengthwise and then into 4cm strips.
- Half a cabbage. Wash and cut into rectangular squares, about 3cm x 2 cm
- 1 carrot, sliced into 8 parts lengthwise, then cut into 4cm strips
- A bunch of french beans, cut into 4cm long strips
- 2 or 3 red chilies, seeded and cut into rings
- 100 grams roasted peanuts, pounded until sandy
- 50g dried prawns, soaked and chopped fine
- 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
STEP 1 (for vegetables)
- Make the cucumber crunchy by rubbing cucumber quarters with 1 tbsp salt. Leave in the fridge for about an hour. Then squeeze out excess liquid.
- While the cucumber is in the fridge, pound the roasted peanuts until they are sandy. These are to be sprinkled on the car.
- Boil water with salt. Blanch the cabbage for 15 seconds then picks them up with a tong. Lightly squeeze out excess water.
- Using the same pot of hot water, next blanch the carrots and French beans for 20 seconds. We want the veggies to retain a crunch, not soggy. Drain. Store in the refrigerator until further use.
STEP 2 (for grinding)
You might want to use a food processor or a grinder to do this job.
- 5 dried chilies
- 5 fresh red chilies
- 1 big French onion
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic
- 2cm fresh turmeric root (kunyit) (if you do not have fresh turmeric root, replace with 2 tsp turmeric powder)
- 1 x 1-inch galangal
- 1 x 1-inch toasted shrimp paste (belacan), roasted
- 3 candlenuts (if you cannot find candlenut, replace with 3 almonds)
- 1 stalk lemon grass
- Mix together 100ml white wine vinegar and 100ml water
- Heat oil in a wok and fry the finely chopped dried prawns and grounded ingredients until fragrant. Do this for a couple of minutes. You will see a nice red paste forming.
- Stir in 2 tbsp sugar and 1 Tsp salt.
- Next, pour in the vinegar and water. Bring to a boil, the mixtures should be thick and not runny. Season to taste.
- If you like it sourer, squeeze in lime juice. Leave to cool completely before mixing with the vegetables. Before serving, mix in peanuts and sesame seeds
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