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Nyonya Acar Fish


Nyonya Acar Fish Recipe (Acar Hu)

1 medium-sized turmeric, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
600g silver mullet or bone-in Red Snapper fish fillet (cut into 1-inch thick fillet)
1 (big) knob ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick strips
2 (small) garlic bulb, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
3 fresh red chilies, sliced into pieces diagonally
10-12 bird’s eye chilies


2 cups oil
2 cups water
1 cup Chinese rice vinegar or to taste
2 tablespoons salt or to taste
1 cup sugar or to taste
1 heaping tablespoon toasted white sesame


Dry the turmeric, ginger, and garlic under the sun for a few hours. Marinate the fish with some salt before deep-frying to golden crispy texture. Transfer the fish into a deep pot, follow by the ginger, garlic, and chilies.

Heat up a wok and stir-fry the turmeric until the oil becomes yellow. Discard the turmeric using a colander. Add water and vinegar to the wok and bring it to boil. Season with sugar and salt per the recipe or to taste. Transfer the marinade into the pot and make sure that the fish and ingredients are submerged by the marinade. Sprinkle the sesame on top and cover the pot with its cover and let the fish pickle overnight. The fish is best served the next day.

Cook’s Note:

Stated above is the traditional method of making Nyonya acar fish. You can leave the ginger, garlic, and turmeric to air dry for a few hours, or you can even use the oven to quickly “dry” them. The key is to lose the moisture content in the ingredients.

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24 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. dewdle

    The only thing that came through Google Reader was the headline/link… no text or photo. Thought you’d want to know.

  2. Even though I am a hard core vegetarian, I can’t help but admire the way the colours in the photograph is standing out. It’s a very simple recipe but you have made it look exotic!!! Amazing :)

  3. This looks very hot and fiery. I live red snapper so I’m going to try and give this a go. I have to say, Nyonya cuisine sounds very similar to Indian cuisine looking at the ingredients list.

    • Hi Sukaina, this dish is not hot at all despite the many chilies used. The chilies are actually “pickled” so they will taste sour and they are eaten together with the fish.

  4. I just stumbled upon this blog and am so excited. I was born in KL but grew up in Singapore…but now living in Mexico – where these incredibly flavours are really a world away! I really love your blog and am so excited to find a blog dedicated to the wonderful South East Asian flavours! Excellent!

  5. I never heard of acar fish .. but all that chilly on the plate is making my mouth super watery :) I love spice.. saving this dish to give a try :)

  6. Sam Pugeda

    I also have not heard of Acar fish, but my family does eat red snapper. The chillies are actually pickled? Is there still some bite? I love sour dishes, but spicy ones as well.

    Also, I completely understand your desire to learn the family recipes. I am the youngest and only girl in the family, so the responsibility of learning to cook our family’s recipes falls to me.

  7. Geoff

    Hi…looks great ! Couple of questions….left to pickle overnight in the fridge or at room temp ? I guess this dish is served at room temperature and not re-heated ? Thanks !

  8. Geoff

    Sorry…one more question…the 2 cups of oil are for the marinade right ? Oil, water, vinegar, sugar etc. Those 2 cups of oil aren’t for deep frying the fish ? Just checking….don’t want to make a really oily marinade if there’s not supposed to be oil in it ! Ta.

  9. cheah tean hong

    I have not cooked this dish since my mum passed away in 2000. .It brought back lots of memories of new year’s eve and nyonya weddings
    I chanced upon your recipe and will make an effort to cook this dish soon.
    Btw, the senangin is a good substitute for the chee ya hu.

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