Atsara. A simple pickled relish for barbecue and other savory dishes (adobo, asado, etc.) that never truly goes bad. The perfect metaphor for my family’s recipes - timeless and sure to sweeten the palette for generations. For the past 2 years, I’ve been mulling over how I could possibly pay a proper homage to my grandmother’s cooking. I’ve read countless blogs, spoken to her about her recipes, and have cooked on my own fairly regularly since I was in high school. The perennial taste tester among my siblings when Dad would cook at home - typically dishes inspired by grandma aka Apu - I’ve picked up the knack for recreating the Filipino food I love and ventured into other types of food that inspire me. Now that I have moved overseas - far from the Philippines and the United States - it seemed even more important to start documenting the family cookbook coupled with my adventures around the globe.
Let’s start with the above pictured atsara. Atsara is usually made primarily of julienned green papaya, but living in Uzbekistan, I’ve had to substitute it out for yellow carrots and red bell pepper for color. This was my first batch and I am quite pleased with the results. It went perfectly w/ the pork tocino I had marinating in the fridge.
- 1 lb. carrots (orange or yellow) - grated or julienned
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. ginger - sliced thin
- 1 red bell pepper - diced
- 1/2 head of garlic - lightly mashed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vinegar
- Peel grate/julienne the carrots. Dice the bell pepper. Place in a bowl together w/ ginger and sprinkle liberally w/ the salt. Let this sit for at least 1 hour to draw all the moisture out.
- Once moisture has been drawn out - wrap carrot mixture in a cheese cloth and squeeze out all excess moisture. Place in a recycled jar for storage.
- In a medium-sized sauce pan heat on a low flame the vinegar and sugar w/ garlic until the sugar fully dissolves, creating a simple syrup. Some recipes I’ve seen online call for water - but I find this a big no-no as it cuts down the tartness of the relish. I like my atsara nice, sweet, and tart. Let this liquid cool to room temperature. You do not want to cook the carrots.
- Pour cooled liquid into the carrot jar. Close and refrigerate for at least a day to get the best flavor.
I love having atsara in my fridge. It keeps for a long time and it goes great with virtually anything - particularly the saltier Filipino dishes. Moreover, here in Uzbekistan, they have their own version of relish - but I find atsara to have more of a kick, particularly the garlic and ginger.