If Sauerkraut is to Germans, Atchara is to Filipinos – only sweeter. That’s the closest description I can give you. And since I have been craving for it for a very long time, I decided to make a trip to an Asian store to get my main ingredient, the green papaya. I tried looking for it in ordinary grocery stores but they only have ripe papaya so, I guess I am justified to drive for two hours just to get what I need.
Without further ado, here is the recipe for those who have been in a foreign land for so long and have yet to make their first ever Atchara.
Cooking time: less than 15 minutes
– Main ingredients:
1 medium green papaya, about 3 – 4 lbs, julienned
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 large vidalia onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
10 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and then thinly sliced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ red bell pepper, cut in thin strips
1 knob ginger, skinned and julienned
¼ cup salt (to dehydrate the papaya)
1 medium chayote (optional)
¼ cup raisins (optional)
– For the syrup
2 cups apple cider vinegar or your choice – some prefer white vinegar
1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1. Place the julienned papaya in a large glass bowl. Combine ¼ cup salt with the papaya. Mix until evenly absorbed.
2. Using a cling wrap, cover the bowl and place inside the refrigerator overnight. The purpose of this step is to dehydrate the papaya, so you don’t have to repeatedly wash, rinse and drain it.
1. Place the julienned papaya over a cheesecloth on a strainer, rinse under running water. If you prefer to use the traditional way, you can add water in the bowl where the papaya was originally stored and squeeze the water out of the papaya you can grab by your hand and then put it on the cheesecloth as stated above. Do this twice, then using the cheesecloth, squeeze all the remaining water out of it.
2. Wash the bowl and dry. Put the papaya back in it and combine with the rest of the ingredients.
3. While mixing the ingredients until well blended, heat the saucepan. Pour the vinegar and bring to a boil.
4. Add the sugar and 1 ½ tsp salt then stir until well diluted.
5. Turn the heat on low and add the mixed ingredients, making sure that the syrup is well distributed. Let simmer for about 10 to 20 seconds while still mixing or stirring. Turn the heat off and let your atchara cool.
6. Spoon the atchara (green papaya pickles) in a sterilized airtight jar and flatten the very top to make sure that the mixed veggies are immersed in the syrup. Seal properly. You can also can this if you prefer.
7. If you are not canning, place the sealed jars in the refrigerator. (You can consume this right away since the flavor has already seeped in because you simmered it). Ideally, wait for about a week or 5 days to achieve the traditional texture and flavor you’re accustomed to.
Serve cold with fried or grilled dishes. Others use this as their dessert, while some eat it with rice. Whatever you prefer, it’s always good. Enjoy.
Author’s note: You can make your carrots decorative by cutting them in strips and some of them in flowerets. I went for the short route this time by not canning it, but I will start canning my next batch.