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.

Otak-Otak Place At 1 Utama

Wuan and I had dinner yesterday at a restaurant called the Otak-Otak Place that just opened at the Lower Ground Floor in the New Wing of 1 Utama. This restaurant took up one of the lots where Giant Supermarket used to be. The menu has an extensive offerings of the delicious otak-otak prepared and served in many different ways.

Otak-Otak Place Roti Jala with Curry Chicken
Roti Jala with Curry Chicken.

There were the usual steamed otak-otak and grilled otak-otak. Otak-otak steamed in banana leaf is from Penang. Otak-otak wrapped in coconut leaf and grilled comes from Muar in Johor. Apart from the that, the menu proferred a mind-boggling list of otak-otak served as dumplings, fish cakes and even used as patty for burgers.

We were indeed spoilt for choice and had a difficult time deciding what we wanted to eat. After browsing the menu for a while and salivating in the process, we decided to tread on the well-beaten path and try out food that we were more familiar with.

Otak-Otak Place Nasi Lemak Special
Nasi Lemak Special.

Wuan was not very hungry and had Roti Jala with Curry Chicken (RM5.90). I stole a piece of the roti jala. The curry was fragrant. The aroma and taste was just what I like in chicken curry. There are not many places in the Klang Valley that offer this dish in the menu. This is one place that I will go back again whenever I have cravings for roti jala.

The fried chicken for the Nasi Lemak Special (RM9.90) that I ordered looked delicious in the menu. It was served in a two-tier stainless steel tiffin carrier that is common in many kitchens. One was filled with rice, two slices of cucumber and half a hard-boiled egg. The other had one piece of fried rempah chicken, one piece of grilled otak-otak and one portion of sambal ikan bilis. The chicken was well marinated and did not disappoint but the nasi lemak was a little bland for my liking.

Steamed Otak-Otak
Steamed Otak-Otak.

For the month of December, patrons who have the 1 Utama One Card will be presented with a complimentary piece of steamed otak-otak (RM3.00) with their orders. While we liked the otak-otak, we both agreed that it would have tasted better with daun kaduk. There was not a hint of this pungent leaf or its aroma. Somehow, steamed otak-otak without daun kaduk is just incomplete for the Northern Peranakan cuisine lovers in us.

The bill plus two glasses of iced honey lemon inclusive of 5% service charge totaled RM24.99. We will definitely return to try out more from the menu. Wuan wants to have a taste of the Nasi Briyani Dam. As for me, there are several other otak-otak dishes that I would love to sink my teeth into.

Venue Hunting For Our Wedding Banquet

Tanjung City Marina at dusk
Tanjung City Marina at dusk.
Photo by Wuan.

Most of my relatives in Penang are not aware that I got married last year. If Mum was around, it would have been a grand reception as our extended family members number by the hundreds. Nonetheless, I like to officially introduce Wuan to them by holding a wedding reception in Penang some time next year. It has been a while since I met many of them. This will be a good opportunity to rekindle our kinship.

I have been looking around for restaurants that serve good Chinese wedding banquet dishes only to realise how out of touch I am with the happenings of the culinary scene in Penang. The only restaurants that I could think of were Haloman, Fortuna, Prosperous and Lee How Fook. All have closed shop since many years ago.

When Wuan and I were in Penang last year for the Forum on Public Transport for Disadvantaged Groups in May last year, we were treated to a sumptuous dinner at Hai Nan Town Nyonya and Hainanese Restaurant by the organiser. We loved the food they served. We really do not mind serving Nyonya and Hainanese dishes for the reception. Besides, the view of the Tanjung City Marina at dusk makes for a very romantic background. I wonder if they do wedding banquets.