I looked eagerly at the beautiful and colourful vegetables that was on my plate of “nasi lemak” (literally translated as fatty rice). I had never come across such a dish before. Upon enquiring out of curiosity, I found that it was pickled vegetables known as “acar”.
As I have never tasted it before, I hesitated but was encouraged to give it a try. The moment I did, I knew there was no turning back. The pickled vegetables were so crunchy, slightly sourish, sweet and spicy at the same time. The explosive mix of flavours tantalizes and teases the taste buds making it incredibly appetizing! The only setback was the vegetables were cold and I love piping hot meals. I was advised to have the acar with a spoonful of steamed white rice. Hence, I got my first taste of a combination of hot and cold food at the same time. From that moment onwards, I do not hesitate piling acar on my plate each time I see it.
Since rice does not have much taste as it is, the acar definitely is a good accompaniment. The warmth of the steamed white rice coupled with the coldness of the chilled acar makes every mouthful a delight.
The appetizing acar awak is ready for serving immediately after cooking. Pineapple or even brinjal can be added too, if that is your preference. The pineapple adds a fruity and tangy note to the dish. If you cook a big batch, store them in a clean and dry airtight container. It can be kept for up to one month, if refrigerated.
Spicy Vegetables Relish is also known as: Acar Awak
Mix carrots and cucumber pieces with 2 tsp of salt. Keep in the refrigerator. Boil a pot of water with 2 tsp of vinegar. Blanch cabbage and french beans. Remove once they are slightly wilted. Leave aside.
Preheat oven to 50 degrees Celcius. Dry carrots, cucumbers, cabbage and french beans with a paper towel. Optional: Add pineapples. Place all vegetables on a tray/baking pan and heat vegetables in the oven for 40 minutes.
Blend chilies, shallots, shrimp paste ('belacan'), galangal, garlic and lemongrass until smooth. Cook chili paste with 2-3 tbsp of oil until fragrant or changes into a darker shade of red. Then, add 200 ml of water along with the tamarind paste. Cook over medium heat. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat. Add shrimp paste, sugar and vinegar.
Mix well before adding the crushed peanuts. Remove the pan of vegetables from the oven and add them to the pan of chili paste. Mix well.
Serve immediately or store in a clean, dry bottle. If refrigerated, it can be kept for up to one month.