Acar (ah-CHAHR; table pickle) is available in every regular restaurant in Indonesia (but not so much in fancy restaurants), just sitting on the table along with sweet soy sauce, like we have salt and pepper in the US. Indonesians spoon it next to almost any dish, especially spicy curries (to cool them down) or plain rice (to spice it up). It reminds us a lot of my Ga-Ga’s limp cucumbers, and is based on basically the same principle.
1 small cucumber, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 carrot, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
1 shallot, thinly sliced
small hot peppers (see note below)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. water
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Cover and set aside at room temperature for at least two hours.
NB: When we say “hot peppers,” we don’t mean jalapenos, we mean Thai bird chilies. These little green guys are phenomenally hot; the only thing hotter, according to people who measure things like this, is the habanero. They’re about the size of the last joint on your index finger. Indonesians eat them whole, which to us is sort of like having a punch in the face with dinner. If you add them to your acar, do not cut them up. The idea is to eat at your own risk, and to vary your experience between little bits of spicy and little bits of not-so-spicy. Since adding a pepper that’s too hot to eat anyway doesn’t seem to make much sense, we use a different, longer, milder (but still hot) pepper whose name is just “pepper” here. It’s not a jalapeno, though. We use three in each recipe, and cut each chili into thirds, ensuring that some spiciness leaches out.