Updated: Jun 15
Acar Ketimun (Indonesian pickled cucumber) is simple, delicious and easy to make side dish. The sweet and sour taste of Acar Ketimun is a perfect companion to lots of spicy and oily Indonesian fish, meat and vegetable dishes. Pickling vegetables to extent their shelf life has been around for quite some time. It originated in India - and was called achaar - around 2400 BCE and via transmission of Hinduism and Buddhism it spread throughout Southeast Asia. Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore all have their own variety of Acar.
In Southeast-Asia Acar variations are usually made from vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, cabbage, shallot, and Thai bird's eye chili (cabe rawit), which are pickled in vinegar. If you have a vegetable garden, you can easily grow these vegetables yourself. Carrots for example, can also be grown in container and raised beds, making them a perfect choice for gardeners with limited space.
In Indonesia sometimes Kaffir lime leaves are added for a citrus aroma. Acar is usually served as a condiment or side dish next to meat dishes such as fried fish (Ikan Bali), curries like Ayam Rica Rica, satay skewers (Saté) or chicken soup (Soto Ayam). Like the pickles we know in the USA and Europe, the sour taste of Acar is meant to freshen up a meal. Acar also is a good companion to oily dishes because it neutralizes the fat.
Acar can be store-bought in many Dutch supermarkets but making it fresh is of course more tasty. In addition, fresh Acar contains less salt and sugar making it more healthy. The good thing about Acar is that it takes little time to prepare and you can perfectly prepare it in advance. After a day in the fridge, the acidic, salty and sweet flavors are incorporated in the vegetables, making the Acar tastier than eating it right away.
The Acar recipe I use in my Indonesian cooking workshops is quite basic and easy to reproduce at home in little time. I only use cucumber but of course you can use other vegetables such as cabbage, carrot, bell pepper etc. Preparing this dish only takes a few minutes. I suggest adding the ingredients to a mason jar so you can give it a good shake in order to mix the ingredients well. After mixing the ingredients this Acar should be refrigerated for at least one hour. As a condiment the recipe below serves 4 people. As a proper side dish it serves 2.
1 red onion or 2 shallots, cut in half and sliced thinly
1 red chilli, cut in half and sliced thinly (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
6 tablespoons white (wine) or rice vinegar
2 Kaffir lime leaves (djeruk perut)
1 tablespoon white sugar
Pinch of salt and freshly grinded black pepper
Heat vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce heat and add sugar and Kaffir lime leaves. Stir briefly until the sugar dissolves. Set mixture aside and let it cool down a bit.
Cut the onions or shallots and chillies into half and slice thinly.
Use a cheese slicer to thinly slice the cucumber.
Add all ingredients to a bowl or jar and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Pour the sugar-vinegar mixture over the cucumber and let it cool.
Mix well and refrigerate for at least one hour. Mix well before serving.