Achara Relish (Green Papaya Appetizer)

PSX_20171227_144407

Yumm! Looking at the photo my mouth is watering! This is “achara” or “atsara”, it is a green papaya relish well-known all over the Philippines as an appetizer. We have so many different versions of it but the main ingredients remain the same throughout the country. Here in U.S. the most famous counterpart is probably pickles and the many varieties of it. For me, what makes achara so different is that it is so flavorful and appetizing. You can serve it with so many dishes and it compliments almost everything. The best time to serve it is when you are eating barbecues, roasts, and fried dishes. Filipino barbecue with its beautiful smell from the mixture of spices and soy sauce plus the hint of sweetness is so good that achara compliments it so perfectly. I think its the thinness of the meat and the amount of time it is marinated that makes the taste so delicious. I’ll make it next time and share with you the recipe. For now, I want to share with you my achara recipe.

Achara making starts by grating the green papaya into chewable thin strips the size of a match-stick. The next step is soaking it in 5 cups of water and adding 1 tbsp of Himalayan pink salt. You can also use regular sea salt or iodized salt in this process. Then you need to leave it in the fridge for at least 24 hours. I left mine for two days. Then you will need to squeeze out the water as much as you can. Then you need to cut the vegetables thinly. It’s better to use fresh veggies so prepare it only when you are about to start the process of mixing the vegetables and spices so they remain crisp and tasty. For the brine, use rice wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar from sugar cane, clean filtered water, and organic granulated cane sugar, preferably. Otherwise, you can use what you have in your pantry. The brine must be divided to each bottle equally. Some prefer to mix the brine with the veggies and spices prior to bottling. You can do as you please and it would still taste the same.

I’ve been planning to make this for three years but I was always making something else and I just forget about it. But now that I am pregnant my tastebuds are always looking for something with strong taste so I remembered this pickled green papaya relish that I so loved as a kid. My mom didn’t really make this but guests would bring it to us or my mom would get one from the fresh market. I didn’t have it too often but I remember how good it tastes and I didn’t want to bother my mom’s busy schedule. When I was in college I used to eat outside a lot especially in fast food chains like McDonalds. It filled the streets of Metro Manila. My classmates and I also eat from restaurants around the university and when they serve skewered barbecues or chicken inasal, there is always a small serving of achara that comes with your plate. I even had achara once when I ordered Pancit Miki Guisado–an egg noodle dish with fish cakes and meatballs mixed with lots of veggies. It is a very uprgraded version of Lo Mein. Achara is everywhere!

Now that I made this, I will make big batches because my husband loved it. In the Balkans, they have their own versions of pickle relish and oh my goodness, they all taste great! Every food really has its own delicious characteristics and I realized nothing is so original or unique anymore. Our food is very similar to Balkan food the only differences we have is the amount and the concentration of spices found in one particular dish. I also find commonalities of Filipino and Balkan dishes with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Jamaican, Mexican, and Arabic and many other cuisines. I can swear by it that no cuisine is original anymore. Maybe way way back in the days when there was no such thing as Globalization; achara would have been unique.

I kept this recipe simple but like everything else, it still needs a little work, like grating the papaya with a scraper. We have a tool we use in the Philippines to scrape melons and this is the same tool you can use to scrape the papaya into long strips. However, I don’t have it so I used a cheese grater with medium-sized holes. Try to get the ones with a compartment and has different sizes of holes so you can choose how thick or how fine the papaya strips will be. I personally prefer the medium so the grated green papaya comes out not too fine like grated parmesan cheese. If its too fine you don’t have anything to chew and it would look like a mushy mixture of unidentifiable veggies.

Also, remember that other recipes use daikon (radish) but I don’t like the taste of radish in my achara so I left that one out. I like it vinegary yet sweet and spicy so I kept the onions and chilis. Most people use red hot chili peppers like serrano peppers or long green chilis depending on which area of the Philippines they learned achara from or what their parents and grandparents passed on to them but for me chili flakes is fine and spicy enough. I also didn’t put raisins but I am thinking of adding it today.  Many prefer rice wine vinegar for fermentation but I used regular distilled white vinegar. The rest is just mixing the ingredients and making sure that your jars have been sterilized. The last step is just bottling the achara and letting it ferment for 2-5 days.

DSC_0829The batch I made without red onions, black pepper, chili flakes, and raisins

DSC_0847Without flash, this is how the color appears to be.

DSC_0849The batch with onions, black pepper, chili flakes, and raisins. Much better in taste and much more flavorful.

PSX_20171227_114850My husband loves it as a side for his breakfast. He took this photo.

PSX_20171227_115338The raisins give the achara a hint of sweetness which he loves so much.

 

Tools
1 large mixing bowl
3 sterilized mason jars
cheesecloth
strainer
melon grater/cheese grater

 

Ingredients
1 medium-sized green papaya 
1/2 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 green bell pepper, julienned
2-inch ginger, julienned
1 carrot sliced thinly or julienned
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 cup granulated sugar, preferably organic raw cane juice
1 cup filtered water
1 cup distilled white vinegar/rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp dry red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced

To Soak Green Papaya
5 cups filtered water
1 tbsp salt

 

Method
Grate the green papaya, add 1 tbsp salt and put 5 cups of water. Leve it for 24-48 hours.
With a cheesecloth or just using gloves, squeeze out as much water as possible. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl mix together julienned red bell pepper, green bell pepper, ginger, carrot, onion, red chili pepper flakes, and minced garlic.

Using a small saucepan mix filtered water, sugar, salt, and white vinegar. Boil for 3 minutes. Let it cool.

Bottle the vegetable mixture in three 8oz sterilized mason jars and then add the vinegar brine mixture in each mason jar. Ideally, the vegetables should be filled with the brine equally. Let it ferment for 2 days. Serve with barbecue, roast, or fried dishes. Enjoy!

 

 

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spiceverse

Hello! My name is Altha. I love to cook and experiment with naturally sourced ingredients. I believe in the power of naturally grown food to heal the body. I consider myself a food philosopher. :D I studied Philosophy and I have a Master's in International Relations. However, my dream is to have a Ph.D. in Culinary Arts! I learned two important things about food, 1) it brings people together, 2) healthy food means a healthy mind and a healthy body. When I learned those two things, I promised myself to keep on cooking, especially for my husband.

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