Pickling originated in India where achar is among the many names by which pickled food is called. Ancient Indian migrants brought achar to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei where it was adapted as acar. By the time pickled food was introduced to the Philippines, it was renamed achara.
In my grandmother’s time, achara referred to pickled shredded green papaya. Today, green papaya achara is only one of the numerous versions of pickled food in the Philippines. Oyster mushrooms achara is among the latest variants. You can buy it or you can make it.
So, to make oyster mushrooms achara, you need oyster mushrooms. Won’t some other mushroom variety work? Well, I can’t say yes to something I haven’t tried so I’ll just stay silent about substitutions.
When you buy fresh oyster mushrooms, you will get a mixture of small and large pieces. We separate the small from the large ones. The large mushrooms, we batter and fry. The small ones are ideal for making mushrooms achara.
Before the mushrooms are actually pickled, various spices and vegetables are added to the pickling solution for two reasons. Flavor and color.
A brining solution of water, sugar and vinegar is simply too one-dimensional in flavor so things like onion, garlic, ginger, peppercorns and salt are added to add a merry mix of heat and aroma. Julienned carrot and bell pepper are added to give the dish a brighter color and contrast in texture.
The mushrooms go into the pickling solution last. The achara is “done” at this point but it is not at its best yet. Like any pickled food, mushrooms achara need time for the flavors to develop. Two days are enough but a few days longer should be even better.
Acharang kabute (picked mushrooms)
- 400 grams oyster mushrooms
- ½ cup cane vinegar
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 6 slices ginger
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic - peeled and pounded
- ½ cup julienned carrot
- ½ cup julienned bell pepper
- ½ cup thinly sliced onion
- Cut off the root ends of the mushrooms and separate the mushrooms into individual pieces.
- In a sauce pan, boil the vinegar, sugar and salt with half a cup of water until the solids are fully dissolved to make the pickling solution.
- Off the heat but while the pickling solution is still hot, drop in the ginger, garlic, carrot, bell pepper and onion.
- Stir in the mushrooms.
- Cool the mushrooms achara to room temperature.
- Transfer to a jar and keep in the fridge for two days to allow flavors to develop fully.