I loved Nonya cuisine. My Granny is a Nonya and I loved her cooking. She made the nicest love letter, pineapple tarts, nonya kueh, chilli paste, spicy dishes etc. But sadly I didn’t manage to learn any skill from her. While growing up, I only sees her 2-3 times annually as I stayed in Singapore while she stayed in Malacca. But every Chinese New Year, there will be tins of love letters, pineapple tarts on the table waiting for sis and me which we loved. Due to health and age, number of tins sitting on the table decrease as years goes by. Ultimately she had to stopped baking as she didn’t have any helper but she started hunting for handmade love letters and pineapple tarts. She had very high standard therefore not many passed her tastebud.
Achar is another side dish which granny used to make. It’s really hard to find the traditional achar which includes whole chilli stuffed with grated dried green papaya. She sun dry and grate the green papaya herself. I have never see that process but I guess Mum will know if I ask. I skipped the stuffed red chilli and only go for the cucumber when young. I loved the sourness, crunchiness and slight spicy cucumber.
Not having it for a decade, I was really happy when I saw this recipe on Mrs Leong cookbook. It’s not hard to make just lengthy but it’s easier than making kimchi. I did a small batch to try on my 1st attempt and that didn’t last very long. On my 2nd batch, I added pineapple into the mixture as well.
Cookbook : Hot and Spicy Treats
Author : Mrs Leong Yee Soo
Cucumber 2.3 kg, plup removed and sliced into 1cm strips
Salt 1 Tbsp
Water 570 ml (2.5 cups)
Vinegar 285 ml (1.25 cups)
Sugar 1 Tbsp
Dried Chillies 10
Shallots or onions 55 g, peeled
Ginger 1 Tbsp, peeled
Garlic 3 cloves, peeled
Ground turmeric 1.5 tsp
Cooking oil 115 ml (0.5 cup)
Water 55ml (0.25 cup)
Sugar 115-130 g
Salt 1.5 tsp
Seasame seeds 3 Tbsp, toasted
Prepare the cucumber: Put cucmber in a non-reactive dish and sprinkle over 1 Tbsp salt. Rub it well into the cucumber strips and leave overnight or for at least 8 hours. Rinse and drain.
Bring water, vinegar and sugar to a rapid boil over high heat, then put in one-third of the cucumber. Boil for a minute. Scoop out cucumber and spread on paper towels to drain. Bring the liquid to a boil again and repeat process with the rest of the cucumber.
Prepare dressing: Combine dried chillies, shallots or onions, ginger and garlic. Grind or blend to a fine paste, then mix in the ground turmeric.
Heat a wok. Add the cooking oil and fry the spice paste over moderate heat until fragrant and oil separates. Gradually stir in half of the water while frying to prevent burning.
Add the sugar, salt and vinegar and the rest of the water. Stir and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer to a non-reactive bowl to cool completely.
Add in the cucumber and sesame seeds and toss. Store in bottles or porcelain jars for at least two days before serving.
One evening, I cooked coconut fragrant rice, stir fried beans, red chicken, son-in-law egg, ikan bills, cucumber achar and peanuts. A complete Nasi Lemak feast 😀