Acar is a vegetable pickle, commonly served as a condiment. It is enjoyed in several parts of maritime Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Brunei. It is an Indian-influenced dish — a localised version of Indian achaar, adapted to suit the local palate.
In the Indonesian version, acar is commonly made from diced vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, shallots and bird’s eye chillies. It is then pickled in a vinegar-salt-sugar solution. The slightly sweet and sour condiment usually accompanies fried/grilled food such as nasi goreng, bihun goreng, soto, or satay.
Gurame acar kuning, or gourami in yellow acar, is fried gourami fish cooked in spices like turmeric, which gives it its yellow color. Although the dish is called acar, there is no pickling involved here. Rather, the acar ingredients (cucumber, carrots, shallots, bird’s eye chillies, and salt-sugar-vinegar) are incorporated to create a dish with the flavour of acar. Ground spices are added to strengthen the character of the dish. Unlike vegetable acar, which is served as a condiment, this dish stands by itself.
Gurame acar kuning is refreshingly yummy. The savoury fish, the complex spice paste and the slightly sweet and sour acar ingredients give the dish delicious layers of flavour. It has depth, but is also light and refreshing. In the past, my mother sometimes made acar kuning without any protein at all. It was just the spices and acar ingredients. Even without any meat, cooked this way, the dish has much more substance than plain acar. It’s delicious with steamed rice. To give more options for our vegan readers and also to honor my mother’s cooking legacy, I will definitely feature the meatless acar kuning recipe in the future.
Gurame acar kuning is a delicious dish of deep-fried fish cooked in a sauce of cucumbers, carrots, turmeric and other fresh herbs and spices.
- 1 medium gourami fish (around 500 gr)
- Juice from 1 small lime/lemon
- 12 shallots, peeled
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
- 2 cm ginger, peeled, chopped
- 4 cm turmeric, peeled, chopped
- 4 candlenuts, chopped
- ¼ tsp white pepper powder
- 1 lemongrass, use only the white part, bruised and cut into 3 or 4 parts
- 2 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 medium cucumber, remove the seeds and slice into around 7×1 cm strips
- 1 medium carrot, peel and slice into around 7×1 cm strips
- 1 big red tomato, sliced
- 5 bird’s eye chillies
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- Salt to taste
- 0.5 tsp sugar
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- 200 ml water
- Oil for deep frying and sauteing
- Clean the fish, and make two diagonal slices on each side of the fish.
- Sprinkle some salt and lime/lemon juice, rub all over the fish and set aside.
- Grind into a fine paste: 6 shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric and candlenuts.
- In a big wok, heat enough oil for deep frying over medium high heat.
- Pat dry the fish using a paper towel and deep fry it until both sides of the fish turn golden brown (around 7 minutes each side). Set aside.
- Heat 3 tbsp of oil in a wok over medium high heat, and then fry the ground spices for around 3 minutes until fragrant.
Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and white pepper powder, fry for another 1 minute.
- Add the carrot, cucumber and the rest of the shallots, fry for 1 minute.
- Add water, salt, sugar and vinegar, stir.
- Add the fish, and cook over medium heat for around 15 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Add tomatoes and bird’s eye chillies, cook for another 1 minute.
- Sprinkle with sliced spring onions, stir, and turn off the heat.
- Serve the fish immediately.
- Acar is believed to work against bacteria and can help neutralize cholesterol, which is one of the reasons it’s served with fatty dishes.
Keywords: Spicy, candlenuts, turmeric