Pickled salad with sour peanut dressing

The base of this pleasingly sour fermented cabbage salad has similarities to Korean kimchi, but asinan is lighter and fresher with the crackle of raw beansprouts and fried peanuts. It is usually eaten unaccompanied as a sensational comfort food snack, but I like to break the rules and serve it with Chicken sate. Jakarta resident and food expert Okty Rahardjo shared her recipe for the dressing with me. If she were from Bogor, a city an hour to the north, the dressing would be peanut free and the salad full of preserved tropical fruits from green mangoes to nutmeg fruit. Javanese traditional markets sell fermented cabbage ready for people to dress at home, so I have no compunction in using sweet-salty threads of sauerkraut as the base. Pickling spring onions (scallions) the day before adds an acerbic extra dimension, but omit these for speed.

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Ingredients

  • 250 g (9 oz) sauerkraut
  • ½ Chinese napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2-3 handfuls beansprouts
  • ¼ cucumber, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Wok-fried peanuts or Disco nuts
  • rice or prawn crackers, to serve

Pickled spring onions

  • 100 ml (scant ½ cup) rice or cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • bunch of spring onions (scallions)

Sour peanut dressing

  • 2 large red chillies, seeded
  • 1 red bird’s eye chilli
  • 50 g ( cup) roasted peanuts or peanut butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon shrimp paste, toasted (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 75 g (½ cup) dark palm sugar (gula jawa) or dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method

Make the pickled spring onions by putting the vinegar, 100 ml (scant ½ cup) water, the sugar and salt in a pan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Trim the spring onions down to the white and very pale green parts. Add to the pickle juice and leave for at least 24 hours before eating. They will keep well in the fridge for a month or so.

To make the dressing, boil the chillies for 5 minutes to soften, then drain. Grind in a small food processor with the peanuts, garlic and shrimp paste until very smooth - push and scrape the sides if needed, it will get there in the end. Transfer the paste to a pan, add the remaining dressing ingredients and 200 ml (a generous ¾ cup) water and cook slowly over a low heat until the sauce starts to boil. Leave to cool. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed - the dressing should be sweet, a bit salty, savoury and sour.

Mix the sauerkraut, fresh cabbage and beansprouts and toss with the loose, creamy dressing. Rain over the cucumber and peanuts and tuck the pickled spring onions around the edge. Serve with a crunch of puffed rice crackers.