Make your own Acar Awak (spicy mixed vegetable pickle)

Acar Awak © Adrian Cheah

A crunchy and aromatic dish concocted of mixed vegetables infused in a rich and spicy gravy garnished with crushed groundnuts. This dish acts as an appetiser in any meal. It adds zest to a plain dish of 'economy' fried bee hoon.

This authentic acar recipe was handed down to me by my mother, an expert in Nyonya cooking. Although it will keep for quite some time in the refrigerator, chances are it will be finished off before long, given its delicious taste.


  • 500 g cucumber 
  • 300 g cabbage, cut 3 cm thick 
  • 100 g cauliflower, cut into small florets 
  • 100 g carrots, cut into 3 cm long strips 
  • 100 g french beans, cut into 3 cm lengths 
  • 100 g long beans, cut into 3 cm lengths 
  • 100 g pineapple, cut into small pieces 
  • 1 purple brinjal, cut into 3 cm long strips 
  • Cili padi (depending on preference) 
  • 1 tbsp salt

For scalding vegetables: 

  • 600 ml water 
  • 400 ml vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp salt 
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Spice paste (ground) 
  • 20 g (1 stalk) serai 
  • 50 g (30) dried red chillies 
  • 100 g (10) shallots 
  • 40 g (5 cloves) garlic 
  • 15 g (2cm) fresh turmeric 
  • 5 g (203 slices) galangal 
  • 10 g (3) candlenuts 
  • 20 g belacan, toasted 
  • 20 g (3 tbsp) coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp vinegar 
  • 9 tbsp sugar 
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 100 g peanuts, roasted and coarsely pounded (for more crunch) 
  • 4 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted


  1. Quarter the cucumber lengthwise without peeling and remove the core. Cut into 3 cm-long strips. Knead 1 tbsp salt into the cucumber slices and leave aside to marinate for 1 hour. Wrap the cucumber slices in a clean towel or muslin cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Lay the cucumber slices on a tray, cover with a thin cloth and sun for 2-3 hours. (This will give the cucumber a nice crunch).
  2. For the other vegetables, sun them separately in trays for 1-2 hours.
  3. Bring water, vinegar, salt and sugar for scalding vegetables to a rapid boil. Blanch the sun-dried vegetables, one type at a time: 2-3 seconds for the cabbage, and 8-10 seconds for the rest of the vegetables. Never overcook the vegetables or they will lose their crunchiness. Drain vegetables and set them aside.
  4. Fry the spice paste in hot oil until it rises and separates from the paste. Season with 9 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp salt. Bring it to a boil. Stir in 2 tbsp vinegar, turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Add in all the vegetables, grounded peanuts and toasted sesame seeds and mix well.

Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah 
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