Acar awak is a pickled vegetable dish known best within the Nyonya or Peranakan community. Usually, acar awak is prepared in a large amount to be bottled in glass bottles for later consumption as these pickled vegetables taste better as they age. Usually enjoyed as a side dish or condiment, many enjoy having acar awak along with rice and other side dishes. In Malaysia or Singapore, acar awak is sometimes served with ‘nasi lemak’.
Vegetables in acar awak should be crunchy and not hard. The chilli paste used needs to be spreadable and not watery. Hence, hard vegetables such as carrots and cucumber will need to be coated with a bit of salt to make them tender. The seeds of cucumber must be removed to avoid having too much water in the dish.
As for cauliflower and french beans, they need to be softened by boiling them and also to remove the raw taste. The vegetables should not be over cooked. Immediately stop the cooking process by transferring the boiled vegetables into iced cold water.
The next step is to either dry them under the sun for two hours or in a oven of 50 Celsius.
Acar awak is sour, sweet and spicy. In short, this spicy vegetable relish is tangy. The level of heat highly depends on the chillies used and the way they are processed. Remove the membrane and seeds of the chillies if you prefer to have a non-spicy acar awak.
Pineapple or even brinjal can be added too, if that is your preference. The pineapple adds a fruity and tangy note to the dish. Pineapples and brinjal will also need to be dried in the oven or under the sun as the other vegetables.
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.
The appetizing acar awak is ready for serving immediately after cooking. 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.
Acar Awak is also known as: Spicy Vegetables RelishAcar Nyonya
Chop carrots, cucumber, french beans, cauliflower and cabbage into bite-sized pieces. Remove the seeds of cucumber. Mix cucumber and carrot pieces with 2 tsp of salt. Store in the refrigerator. Boil a pot of water with 2 tsp of vinegar. Blanch cabbage and french beans for 1 minute or until slightly wilted. Set aside.
Blend chillies, shallots, candlenut, turmeric, galangal, garlic and lemongrass until smooth. Heat oil over medium heat and sauté blended chilli paste until fragrant or when it changes into a darker shade of red. Then, add water along with the tamarind paste. Once it begins to boil, lower the heat. Add shrimp paste and vinegar. Finally, salt and sugar to taste.
Pour crushed peanuts into the chilli paste. Then, remove the pan of vegetables from the oven and add them to the pan. Mix well.
Serve immediately or store in a clean, dry bottle. If refrigerated, it can be kept for up to one month. Before serving, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on the dish.