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Nyonya Acar Fish

Nyonya Acar Fish
Nyonya Acar Fish pictures (2 of 4)

Whenever I am home in Penang, I make it an effort that I learn our family recipes from my aunt, who is in her late 70’s. Since my late mother passed away some 3 years ago, she is now the only person who knows the recipes of all our much-treasured family dishes—everyday home-cooked recipes, Nyonya food, and kuih (sweet cakes).

This mouthwatering and super delicious Acar Hu, or Nyonya Pickled Fish, is a much celebrated Nyonya recipe. Everyone in my family loves this concoction of deep-fried fish pickled with a turmeric-vinegar base, spiced with garlic, ginger, and chilies…

In my family, we would use a type of fish called “chee ya hu” (silver mullet). However, you can make Acar Fish with fish fillet such as red snapper as silver mullet is not widely available. When my friend Patty Unterman of San Francisco Examiner came to visit Penang, my brother and I introduced her to Penang’s Nyonya food. At the first bite, Patty asked me for the Acar Fish recipe. I am so glad that both my brother CK and I had the opportunity to make this dish together, following my aunt’s instructions as she sat in the kitchen narrating the step-by-step to us. Acar fish is extremely tasty and tantalizing, with the perfect balance of flavors. To learn more about Nyonya food, check out my site.

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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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