Achara

Filipino cuisine is a colorful blend of Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and even Indian influences. Most meals are served with a wide selection of condiments and dipping sauces, often laid out in little bowls or dishes, so each person can fully customize the meal to his or her heart’s content.

 
One of my favorite condiments is achara, or Philippine-style pickles. Different regions of the country have their own versions of achara, using different vegetables and slightly different pickling liquids. I prefer the kind of achara served in Aristocrat restaurants—a crunchy, sweet and tangy version using green papaya. And so when my mom mentioned that our family recipe for achara was just like that, I got excited. In fact, I think I might have looked forward to the achara a wee bit more than the Filipino chicken barbecue, because I asked Tom to hunt down a green papaya for me a full two weeks before my planned grilling date.

 
green papaya for achara

 
 
The recipe is straightforward and simple. The most labor-intensive part of the recipe involves preparing the green papaya. The flesh is usually scraped or shred into long strands, almost like spaghetti noodles. In the Philippines, we use a handheld tool that looks like a larger version of a citrus zester. I imagine a mandoline would also make quick work of it, but since I had neither, I settled for the shredder attachment of my food processor. (Be sure you don’t shred it into small pieces like slaw; we want strands or strings of vegetables.)

 
The papaya strands are squeezed until they releases their juices or sap, then drained and spread on a baking sheet left out in the sun to dry. After that, everything else is fairly straightforward. You prepare the pickling liquid, mix everything together, and store the achara in clean jars in the refrigerator. Some folks say you have to let it sit for about 4 days, but I started sneaking tastes after just 1 day and it already tasted perfect to me.

 
Okay, I may have snuck in a taste even sooner than that.

 
Filipino achara or pickled green papaya

 
 

Achara (Pickled Green Papaya)
Serves 12

Ingredients:

1 medium green papaya, about 3 pounds, peeled, seeds removed, and julienned, sliced, or shredded into thin long strands
1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar, or more (up to 1/4 cup more) to taste if you want a sweeter achara
2 heaping tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned, sliced, or shredded into thin long strands
1/2 small red bell pepper, julienned
1/4 cup pineapple chunks, halved
1 piece ginger, about 1/2″ long, julienned (optional)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly (optional)
1 tablespoon raisins (optional)

 
Put the green papaya in a colander and squeeze until the papaya releases its juices. Spread the papaya on a baking sheet and let dry in the sun, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Add pineapple juice and mix.

In a large bowl, combine dry papaya shreds, vinegar mixture, and the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Transfer to clean jars and store in the refrigerator. Let sit at least one day before using.

 
Filipino achara or pickled green papaya

 
 
I’m telling you, this stuff is so good that someone who shall remain nameless used to make a whole meal of a bowl of achara and fried rice.

 
I love being anonymous sometimes.

 
 

11 Responses to Achara
  1. Liren
    June 21, 2010 | 10:05 pm

    I have been hunting down a good recipe that reminds me of the vat-loads of achara that we would bring back to NY after summer vacations in the Philippines! Yours seems so wonderfully similar to the kind my dad’s family would make, though now I’m curious if theirs contained pineapple! You’re so right about achara being so wonderful with barbecues and grilled meats. I remember being so sad when we were done with the last of the imported achara…that would mean a very long wait before the lovely sweet and pickled taste would hit our lips again! Thanks for the recipe and the trip down memory lane!

    • ivoryhut
      June 21, 2010 | 10:11 pm

      Liren, the pineapple is optional, but I add it because it rounds out the flavors so nicely, and is actually quite similar to the vinegar+sugar taste. I suspect that because it’s mellower in taste, it doesn’t need to sit for so many days in order for the flavors to meld. Maybe that’s why it tasted good after just 1 day of sitting.

  2. Tracy
    June 25, 2010 | 12:55 pm

    This looks wonderful! Perfect for summer. :-)

  3. Jen @ How To: Simplify
    June 25, 2010 | 4:22 pm

    This has so many amazing colors! What a perfect recipe for summer!

  4. Cookin' Canuck
    June 29, 2010 | 10:46 am

    I adore green papaya salad, but have never tried achara. This would be perfect at any summer barbecue.

  5. juneypie
    July 6, 2010 | 8:42 am

    thank you, thank you! even though its winter here, i will try my hand at making achara! my Lola made the best achara, but i never bothered to learn. and then i moved halfway across the world, and Nanay went on ahead to the great restaurant in the sky and i’m sadly missing her achara.

    i don’t know about the pineapple though, but i will stay true to your recipe first before i try duplicating Nanay’s Visayan version!

    – juneypie, from cold, cold Sydney

  6. Annapet
    May 23, 2011 | 7:18 pm

    Thanks for your post. I just made a batch but will try your recipe next time I find some green papaya.

  7. [...] (Inihaw na manok) from Erika of Ivory Hut…she mentioned that you really must make the Achara (Pickled Green Papaya) side dish to go with the barbecue. And, you should listen to [...]

  8. Sometimes I Forget | Awake / Asleep
    February 28, 2013 | 2:39 am

    [...] Achara (Pickled Green Papaya) [...]

  9. Maria Lourdes Omamalin-Ho
    July 4, 2013 | 8:36 pm

    Can I add apples to my achara? Any other fruits? Can I use canned pineapples .

    Much as gracias and hope to hear from you

    Maria Ho

  10. ivoryhut
    July 5, 2013 | 11:39 am

    I would suppose you could add apples, but I’d probably not marinate them too long because apples tend to disintegrate and become mushy. You can also try adding half-ripe mangoes, as they have a consistency and texture similar to green papaya. If you don’t mind extra sweetness, I’d imagine a bit of jackfruit would work, too. Feel free to experiment—and if you find a variation that you really like, let me know!

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about me

I write, cook, play music, and make pictures. Not necessarily in that order. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and it shows. That means I eat rice with every meal, love my cousins like my own siblings, and firmly believe that avocados are best eaten with cream and sugar.

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One summer night in 2010, our house burned to the ground and we lost everything we had. This is the story of what happened and how life and hope can always rise from ashes.



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