Recipe: Acar Hu – Nyonya Fish Pickle

Acar hu – Nyonya fish pickle.

Wuan bought some very nice ikan belanak from the wet market and decided to make acar hu with it. Acar hu, also known as acar ikan in Malay, is a popular Nyonya pickled fish dish. Wuan had made it once for me many years ago and I liked it very much. I am not too fond of ikan belanak because I am too lazy to pick out the bones. She added another two slices of ikan kurau just for me.

The following recipe is adapted from Nyonya Flavours, a Penang Straits Chinese cuisine recipe book jointly published by The State Chinese (Penang) Association and Star Publications. The step by step instructions are complemented with photographs of the process.

Acar Hu

8 ikan belanak (chee ya hu, mullet), gutted and scaled
2 slices ikan kurau (mah yau yee, threadfin)

2 tsp salt to season fish
Cooking oil for deep frying

5cm fresh turmeric, thinly sliced
100gm young ginger, finely shredded
2 bulbs garlic, finely shredded
6 red chillies, seeded and quartered lengthwise

5 tbsp cooking oil

250ml rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
10 tbsp granulated sugar

Ikan kurau slices and ikan belanak. Remove the scales and gut the fish. Lightly rub with salt to season.

Deep fry the fish until golden. Remove from oil and set aside.

Deep fried ikan belanak and ikan kurau slices.

Young ginger, garlic, turmeric and red chilies.

Sliced garlic, sliced red chilies, shredded young ginger and sliced turmeric.

Fry turmeric slices in 5 tablespoon of oil until oil turns yellow and fragrant. Discard turmeric.

Fry garlic slices in turmeric oil until fragrant. Add shredded young ginger and continue frying until fragrant and the ginger shreds start to shrivel. Leave aside to cool.

Put the garlic and ginger in a big glass bowl. Add red chillies. Pour in rice vinegar. Add salt and sugar to taste. Keep submerged in the vinegar for at least one day before serving.

Acar hu – Nyonya fish pickle.

The acar hu is best eaten with rice. Its piquant taste is truly appetising when accompanied by the red chilli, ginger and garlic that are pickled together with it. This dish may also be therapeutic as well as turmeric and ginger can dispel wind in the body. Likewise, many other Nyonya dishes use herbs, spices and rhizomes for similar therapeutic effects besides being delicious and unique in taste.

Steamed Buns – As Easy As ABC

Steamed buns

Making steamed buns is as easy as ABC. All that is needed are flour, sugar, yeast, water and lots of elbow grease if you do not have an electric mixer. Below I am sharing the recipe of the steamed buns that I just made. It is really fun and simple. All the ingredients are easily available from the bakery section of supermarkets. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Steamed Buns (Pau)

500g flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

Mix the flour and yeast thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Dissolve sugar in water. Mix the ingredients and knead the dough with hand or with an electric mixer for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and does not stick to the bowl. Separate the dough into 40g lumps. Roll to make them round and line the bottom of each bun with a piece of grease paper. Cover it with a piece of clean cloth and leave it to rise for 60 minutes in room temperature. Steam the buns in high heat for 15 minutes. Use a piece of rolled up wet cloth to seal the side of the steamer. Makes 24 buns.

Peter Tan’s Petai Masak Pedas


Petai (Parkia Speciosa) are abundant during the durian season of June and July here. It is also known as stink beans for its foul smell, much like the stench of burnt rubber. It also has a slightly bitter taste. It is a delicacy to those who appreciate it not only for its unique taste but its supposedly medicinal property of countering diabetes.

Petai beans

There are several ways to eat petai. The simplest is to remove the beans from the pod, remove the white membrane and eat it raw. For a little more flavour, it can be eaten with sambal belacan and mashed dried prawns. The pod can be toasted over embers and the beans removed and eaten the same way. Another is to make dried prawns sambal and add petai to it. One recipe I like is the Sambal Petai and Prawns.

Peter gave me some petai a few days ago. Since I have developed an allergy to prawns, it was substituted with chicken. I would have loved to use tom yam paste for the dish but it is not something I should indulge in. I settled with using onions and soy sauce for taste. No salt was used but I believe it would have tasted better with some. The following was what I cooked up for today’s lunch.

Spicy stir fried petai

Peter Tan’s Petai Masak Pedas

1 cup of petai beans
2 onions, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 dried chillies, remove seeds and soak in water for 10 minutes

1/2 chicken breast, cut into 2 cm slices

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp thick soy sauce
2 tsp soy sauce, or to taste
1/2 tsp sugar, or to taste
(a dash of salt, or to taste)
1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp corn flour

Heat oil in wok. Add garlic and stir till fragrant. Add onions and dried chillies and stir till fragrant. Add chicken and stir for 2 minutes. Mix the thick soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar and water and pour into wok. Stir for another 2 minutes. Add the petai beans and stir for another 2 minutes. Dissolve corn flour in a little water, pour into the wok and stir until the gravy becomes thicker in consistency. Remove from wok and serve with rice. For an extra dose of spiciness, add chilli padi together with the dried chillies.