If you grow up in an Asian household there is a good chance you are going to eat some type of pickled vegetable, whether that is cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, or something else. I’m part Indonesian, and that means I grew up with Acar Timun (though to be honest I didn’t know the name at the time). It is an Indonesian cucumber pickle with carrots and shallots. We typically eat this with chicken satay and rice, it adds a nice pickled taste to go with the savory and sweet protein. This recipe comes courtesy of my Mom who has probably made this dish 100’s of times.
Most people are familiar with Asian pickled foods as kim chi (Korean) or sunomono (Japanese). However, acar timun is just as popular in Indonesia, and is their choice of pickled vegetables. I’m not a great expert on pickled vegetables, however I do have Indonesian, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese family members (and most importantly Mothers or Grandmothers) in my immediate family.
In a way, I feel like you are able to tell a lot about an Asian food culture by what types of pickled vegetables they have. They are all a little bit different, and are meant specifically to be eaten with their cultural dishes. For example, kim chi should always be eaten with kalbi, sunomono is eaten with sushi, and acar timun is eaten with satay. Some pickled vegetables are spicy, some are sweet, some have more vinegar, and some are more crunchy.
I feel like you never quite appreciate the pickled vegetables your Mom always had at the table, until you move out on your own, and don’t have them.
The advantage of pickling your own vegetables
- Freshness – I for sure have been spoiled by homemade Asian pickled vegetables. There is a certain freshness and bite that is only present in acar timun, kim chi, or sunomono created at home.
- Taste and Crunch – The vegetables are just the right crunchiness, have the perfect mix of consistency, and most important you get to pick when to take the pickle vegetables out of the fridge. This gives you the ultimate control over how you like to enjoy your pickled vegetables.
- Price – Pickled vegetables are nutso expensive. I’m not sure why they are expensive, other than maybe no one in their 30’s and 40’s knows how to make them. However, we are for sure plenty willing to pay for them, and maybe that is reflected in the price. That is my theory anyways.
Tips for making Indonesian Cucumber Pickle (Acar Timun)
- Overnight is best – Pickled vegetables need time so don’t ignore having them sit in the fridge overnight.
- Cauliflower for kids is also good – I actually really enjoy having cauliflower added to my acar timun. The crunch is nice, and it soaks up the pickling flavors nicely. In addition because cauliflower is a bit meatier your kids will probably be able to eat these vegetables first. The pickling flavor won’t be as potent in cauliflower.
- Spicy, spicy, spicy! – Acar timun is spicy, it is meant to be spicy, it tastes better spicy, don’t make it not spicy.
What to eat with Acar Timun
- Chicken Satay – I would be so bold as to say, don’t eat satay without acar timun. They go so well together it is ridiculous. It will go well with beef satay too, but my favorite is chicken.
- Asian-style Pork Chops – If you know how to make a fried Asian pork chop (Taiwanese, Chinese, of Vietnamese) then acar timun goes well with these dishes too.
Acar Timun Indonesian Cucumber Pickle with Shallots
- 8 Pickling cucumbers
- 2 Carrots
- 5 Shallots
- 5 Small chili peppers
- 4 tbsp Salt
- 1/3 cup Water
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2/3 cup White vinegar
- Get Ingredients
- Peel the cucumbers in stripes, and then cut in small cubes. You want a thin stripes of green cucumber skin so the pickling is crunchy.
- Peel and cut the carrots in small cubes.
- Peel and cut the small shallots in small wedges. Do not separate the layers of shallots, you want them together.
- Chop the green and red chilis.
- Prepare the syrup by mixing the 4 tbsp of salt, 1/3 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, 2/3 cup white vinegar together in a separate mixing bowl.
- Bring the syrup to a boil in a pot until the ingredients have dissolved into one mix, about 5 minutes. You want the ingredients to dissolve but you don't want the water to evaporate too much.
- After the ingredients have dissolved reduce the heat to low, and add in your cucumbers, carrots, shallots, and chilis. Immediately toss the vegetables in the hot/warm syrup and mix them well.
- After mixing, turn off the stove and remove from the pot from the heat.
- Transfer to a container with a tight lid, and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but it is much better overnight. If you are going to be leaving overnight, then mix the vegetables one more time after a couple hours.