Saturday, 21 July 2012

Nyonya Acar

My family used to eat this lovely Nyonya Acar (Nyonya Pickles) once a year. My mother and grandmother would make this acar for the Chinese New Year reunion dinner.  The reason why we only make this once a year is due to the time consuming preparation. There's the job of cutting and slicing the vegetables and a whole lot of shallots need to be peeled. The very thought of that is enough to bring tears to your eyes.

This dish is usually eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal or can be eaten as an appetizer or a snack. There are many recipes and preparation methods. I understand that the proper way is to blanch the vegetables and then dry them in the sun to make them crunchy. My mother and grandmother skipped this step and as long as it does not compromise on the flavor of the dish, I suppose it is alright.

It is important that your vegetables are fresh to ensure crunchiness and be sure to remove the pith of the cucumbers and salt them to remove excess water. You should also prepare the acar one day ahead of serving to enable the vegetables to be properly pickled and to give the spice paste enough time to develops its flavors. Don't ever serve this on the day it is made or you will be disappointed.

Nyonya Acar

Vegetables :
- 2 cucumbers 
- 2 carrots
- 6 long beans
- 2 red and 2 green chillies, sliced (optional)
- 10 shallots peeled and left whole (optional)

Note : You can also put cabbage and cauliflower.

Spice paste :
- 15 shallots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 red chilli (more if you like spicy)
- 4 dried chillies (more if you like, soaked to soften)
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 inch tumeric (kunyit)
- 2 candlenuts (buah keras)
- Belacan (1 heaped tablespoon if using granules)

Tamarind juice
Palm sugar (gula Melaka)

Roasted peanuts (coarsely pounded)
Sesame seeds (toasted)

Method :
1. Cut cucumber into four and remove the pith.

2. Cut cucumbers into strips and rub with salt. Drain in colander for about 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Squeeze excess water from cucumbers and set aside.

4. Peel carrots and cut into strips.

5. Cut long beans into 1 inch length.

6. Blend spice paste ingredients and saute until aromatic.

7. Pour in tamarind juice, vinegar, palm sugar and sugar. Let boil until mixture is slightly thick.

8. Taste the mixture and adjust if necessary. It must be salty, sweet and sour. And let the taste be more intense ie saltier, sweeter and more sour because the vegetables will bleed water and dilute the flavors.

9. Add the long beans first and mix. After about 5 minutes, add in the rest of the vegetables and stir to mix for about another 5 minutes.

10. Remove and put into container. Mix once in a while to ensure that the vegetables are evenly coated with spice paste. Once cooled, put in the fridge.

Notes :
1. I did not rinse the cucumber after squeezing out the water because the water that oozed out has diluted the salt and also I want the cucumber to be slightly salty.

2. The amount of tamarind juice and vinegar should be enough to cover the vegetables and I used half tamarind juice and half vinegar. 

3. Before serving, mix the acar thoroughly and taste. Adjust for sweet, sour and salty if necessary.

4. Add the roasted peanuts and sesame seeds and mix. Sprinkle more on top if you like.

Cut into four, remove pith and cut as above.
Cut carrots.
Cut long beans to about one inch length.
Vegetables ready to be pickled.
Mix well to ensure even coating and pickling.
Ready to serve.


  1. Hi Phong Hong,

    Acar Looks Delicious !!!

    Neat presentation :))

    Keep up this GooD work Dear...

    1. Thank you,Punitha. You are always very kind and encouraging.

  2. Phong Hong, I loved achar but only prepares it once or twice a year when I'm on vegetarian diet [strictly no onions]. Keeps well and more flavourful when refrigerated. My preparation is slightly different from yours. I met 1 auntie at the market, she says using french beans is better cos' it is more crunchy than long beans. Yet to try it. What do you think?

    1. I have yet try French beans. Perhaps the next I make the acar I could try.Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Hi Phong Hong, I love this, very appetizing. Yours look delicious. yum yum
    I usually prepare quite a lots and keep in the fridge cos it take 2 days for me to do this.

    Have a nice day, regards.

    1. Hi Amelia, yes its a good idea to prepare lots. Since there is much work involved, might as well make more.

  4. *Salivate*, *drool* and more *drool* .... Looks sooooo good!!
    I love this. I guess I'll have to attempt this very soon in the near future. Everyone of the sifus in the family are getting older and feebler. Each family seem to have their own slightly different way of preparing. My mum used to blanch the cut veges in hot vinegar or something like that. She says it's another way to keep the veges crunchy besides drying them out in the sun. Looks like you don't need to do that here. Might be a step easier for me :)

    1. Hi Ping, I think blanching in vinegar helps the veges to pickle faster besides the crunch factor. So far my family's shortcut seems to work out ok. Look forwards to your acar post in the near future!

  5. This Nyonya Acar looks real delicious! I loves to eat pickle. As I look on to your photos, I thought you were frying the vegetables in, are you or you are just your wok to mix everything up? I hope it is not tedious to make as I would like to make this one day.

    1. Hi Mel, I was frying the vegetables in the wok - mixing it with the spice paste. The only tedious thing for me is peeling the onions. True, its quite a bit of work but in the end it is worth it.

  6. Last time my sister in law use to do this for me during CNY, as to enjoy with udang keropok, simply good. Thanks for sharing, you look good and tempting .

    1. Hi Sonia, yah, I sometimes eat with keropok too. It is very appetizing.

  7. My mother-in-law used to make this. Now that she's old and has stopped making, we don't get any to eat anymore. Those sold commercially are not so nice. Best when eaten with nice keropok...

    1. Nothing beats home cooking, eh? Oh yes, it is also very nice with keropok. That I will have to agree!

  8. Absolute perfection...gorgeous, and delicious...more drool here,again!

  9. i love eating acar..i only know how to eat, dont know how to make but i've seen acar recipes here and there..thanks you for sharing your version here, the process looks a little simpler.

    1. This is the practical version, still tastes good. I hope you give it a try.