Acar Recipe

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Recently, I was asked to contribute a recipe for a pocket cookbook that was to accompany the latest issue of a food magazine.  I submitted a recipe for my acar – Malay Vegetable Pickle – and as promised, once published, a copy of it was sent to me.

The Good – it was a collection of Malaysian recipes from such celebrity chefs as Rick Stein and Masterchef Australia winner Adam Liaw – so, I should be happy, right?

The Bad (in fact, horrible) – my recipe had been tampered with – one of the steps had been changed, which would FUNDAMENTALLY alter the taste of the final product.  This was done without my knowledge, consultation or approval.  Evidently, the food editor of this magazine had decided they knew my food better than I do.

Anyway, here is the recipe along with the instructions as they SHOULD have appeared.

Disclaimer – I’m a huge proponent of the ‘agak-agak’ (Malay for ‘estimating’) school of cooking.

Particularly with a dish like acar, where I don’t weigh the ingredients beforehand (eg. cabbages/carrots come in all different sizes after all) – do your own taste-testing and don’t be afraid to stray far from the amounts listed – DOUBLE or even TRIPLE the sugar/peanuts etc. if required –


2L white vinegar

2 cups water

1/4 cabbage, cut into 2cm strips

2 carrots, peeled, cut into thin 5cm-long sticks

4 cucumbers, pith removed, cut into thin 5cm lengths

1 cup snake beans, tips removed, cut into 5cm lengths

1 TBS salt

1 TBS turmeric powder

2 TBS chilli flakes

1 TBS minced garlic

3 TBS shrimp paste granules

1 cup sugar

2 cups skinless peanuts, roasted and crushed

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

Directions –

1. In a large pot, combine vinegar and water.  Bring to a boil. (DO NOT add sugar to this mixture – for those who happen to have a copy of the cookbook at home)

2.  Add cabbage, carrots, cucumber and snake beans (in this order) – then turn off the heat immediately.

3. Cover with lid for one minute.  Strain liquid from pot and discard.

4. NOW add the damn sugar along with salt, chilli flakes, turmeric, garlic and shrimp paste.  Mix well and adjust seasoning as required.

5.  Add crushed peanuts and sesame seeds.  Allow to chill before serving.

My Acar recipe as it appears in the cookbook.

Acar being made in my restaurant, post-blanching in vinegar solution.  As you can see here, the sugar is added AFTER the liquid has been strained out.


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  1. not cool at all when they decide to override someone’s input like that…. on the other hand, congrats on getting published! always a good validation!

  2. s0rceress0 says:

    I can just hear my cooking instructor’s thump as she hits the floor dead of a heart attack. No one has the right to tamper with a recipe. It is akin to telling someone to go fuss with an alternator on a car without unhooking the battery first. Unthinkable. They should have asked you to email the recipe exactly as you wanted it to appear and then just copied and pasted.
    On another note, that recipe looks really good! This blog is definitely a major attraction for me. I would love to see more of your food in print.

    • I agree; I hate to get legalistic but from now on anytime I put anything out, it’s going to have to be within the confines of an ironclad copyright agreement.

  3. Damn idiots, you don’t add sugar when blanching, you add after when cooking… hope they got a kick in the bum for this.. altering ppl’s recipe..pffttt! . I supposed they are not even Malaysian? LOL 😉

  4. Belinda T says:

    Can’t believe they messed with your recipe! Thanks for posting the original one online. I’ve haven’t been game to make it before, but I’ll have to try out your acar recipe. You make it seem so easy.

    Since I’m the only one in the house that eats acar, how long can I keep the acar in the fridge for?

    • Hi Belinda, thanks for your comment! The acar will keep for at least 4-6 weeks in the fridge, and I’ve found it freezes surprisingly well if need be. Yeah, this is kind of a quick and easy way to make it but it works well enough – good luck with it and hit me up if you need more info :)

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