Nyonya Acar Recipe and Step-by-Step Guide (Chinese New Year)
Acar blends sweet, spicy, and sour flavors. The secret lies in the nyonya chilli paste, well-portioned vinegar, and a sugar mixture. Drying the vegetables under the sun is also vital because it provides that quintessential crunch.
Is it an easy recipe? After trying it, the answer is no. It is a lot of work, especially if you have high expectations. The recipe below is passed down to me by my mother-in-law, who lives in Malacca (a state in Malaysia) where nyonya food is abundant. If you are a big fan of nyonya acar and have the time to give it a try, follow the recipe below.
Step 1: Dry the Vegetables Under the Sun
- 500 grams cucumber
- 200 grams carrots
- 200 grams cabbage
- 100 grams long beans
- 200 grams cauliflower
- 100 grams brinjal
Instructions for Each Vegetable
- Wash the cucumber. Cut the greener end of the cucumber and rub the parts together until you see white discharge. This will remove the bitter taste of the cucumber.
- With the cucumber skin on, cut it into 4-centimetre lengths. Cut open the cucumber and remove the seeds in the centre. Then, cut it into strips and place all the cucumber strips in a bowl.
- Rub the cucumber strips with 1 tablespoon of salt. Leave aside for an hour. This step will remove the water in the cucumber.
- Use a clean towel to wrap a small handful of cucumber strips and squeeze out the excess water as much as possible. Repeat this step until all the cucumber strips are squeezed.
- Spread the cucumber strips on a big tray and dry them under the sun for 2 to 3 hours. This step will make the cucumber crunchy.
- Wash the carrots. Remove the carrot skin. Cut the carrots into thin 4-centimetre strips.
- Dry the carrot strips under the sun for 1 or 2 hours.
- Wash the cabbage and cut it into 2 1/2-centimetre squares.
- Dry the cabbage squares under the sun for 1 or 2 hours.
- Wash the long beans and cut into 4-centimetre lengths.
- Dry the long beans under the sun for 1 or 2 hours.
- Wash the cauliflower and cut it into small pieces, almost the same size as the long beans.
- Dry the cauliflower under the sun for 1 or 2 hours.
- Wash the brinjal. With the skin on, cut it into 4-centimetre strips.
- Dry the brinjal under the sun for 1 or 2 hours.
- Good sunshine (mid-noon) is necessary to dry the vegetables for the above-mentioned times. If there is insufficient sunshine, you can dry them under the fan for 4 to 8 hours. Drying the vegetables is important to produce crunchy vegetable acar.
- Six types of vegetables are introduced here. You can reduce the number of vegetables types and increase the portion of the rest according to your preferences.
Step 2: Prepare the Add-on Ingredients
- 3 red chillies
- 3 green chillies
- 3 shallots
- 50 grams young ginger
- 3 cloves garlic
- Cut the red and green chillies into half, remove the seeds, and cut them into 4-centimetre strips.
- Peel the shallots, ginger and garlic skin, and cut them into very thin slices.
Step 3: Prepare the Nyonya Acar Chilli Paste
- 10 fresh chillies
- 5 dried chillies
- 10 shallots
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 centimetres fresh turmeric root
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 10 tablespoons of rock sugar (or normal sugar)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- Cut the red and green chillies in half and remove the seeds. (Note if you double or triple the recipe: If you seldom handle chillies, wear a pair of gloves, as long hours in direct contact with the chillies will cause a burning sensation on your fingers.)
- Peel the shallots and the garlic's outer skin and cut them into slices.
- Peel the outer skin of turmeric root and cut it into slices.
- Slice the washed lemongrass finely.
- Grind all the cut ingredients above in an electric blender (with shallow knife) until you get a fine chilli paste.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok. Stir-fry the ground chilli paste above (with medium to high heat) until fragrant and the oil begins to separate from the paste.
- Add in sugar and salt.
- Set aside and let it cool down completely.
Using rock sugar will make the acar more tasty than the normal sugar. You can buy rock sugar from any Asian market or in any Chinese herbal shop.
Step 4: Scald the Vegetables
- 400 millilitres vinegar
- 600 millilitres water
- In a big wok, pour in the water and vinegar and bring the mixture to rapid boil.
- Blanch the vegetables from Step 1, one type at a time. Start with cucumber and cabbage. Dip the cucumber and cabbage in the boiling water vinegar mixture for two to three seconds.
- Scald the rest of the vegetables (carrots, long beans, cauliflower, and brinjal), one type at a time for 8 to 10 seconds.
- Drain the scalded vegetables at once in a colander.
- Discard the water-vinegar mixture.
Step 5: Mix All the Prepared Ingredients
- 100 millilitres vinegar
- 10 tablespoons (about 100 grams) ground, roasted peanut (see preparation note below)
- 4 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
- With the fried and cooled chilli paste in a big wok, add in the ingredients prepared in Step 2.
- Then, add in the scalded vegetables in Step 4.
- Add in 100 millilitres vinegar.
- Stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
- Taste the acar and add more sugar and/or vinegar as desired.
- Add in peanuts and sesame seeds and stir well. (You can also add these right before serving for crunchier peanuts and sesame seeds taste)
- Scoop up the acar to store in a porcelain jar or a clean, dry glass jar.
- Keep it in the fridge for at least 2 days before serving. (Acar can be kept in the fridge for months.)
How Do You Prepare the Ground, Roasted Peanuts?
- Spread raw, in-the-shell peanuts in single layer in a shallow pan. Bake at 325°F for about 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Shake the pan or stir frequently to allow even baking.
- Alternatively, you can stir-fry (without oil) the raw peanuts at low to medium heat until lightly browned.
- Remove the peanuts’ skin and grind them in an electric blender.
© 2012 Ingenira