WHB #121 : Acar Kuning


Do not adjust your monitors! This Indonesian vegetable pickle really is that yellow, the result of the addition of the meerest thumb sized piece of pounded fresh turmeric. Turmeric is a rhizome from the ginger family. It’s flesh is bright orange in colour and is sometimes used as a cheap substitute for saffron. One drawback to this fantastic colour is that it also will stain your hands and chopping board while you’re working with it. The way I try to get round it, is by washing my hands and board as quickly as possible after handling it.

Here, the turmeric has been pounded into a paste along with garlic and candlenuts (these waxy nuts which resemble macadamia nuts, act as a sort of thickener). The paste is then fried and forms the base for a great vegetable side dish called Acar Kuning (literally meaning yellow pickle). The Malaysian version of acar is slightly different to the Indonesian one, and is, in my extremely biased opinion, actually slightly better as well. In the interests of trying new things, I thought I would give this recipe a go, and since then have been happily eating these light and crunchy pickles with almost every meal. They are the perfect accompaniment to rich curries or other spicy dishes.

Number 6 on my list from the previous post, was this acar, which I thought I should also share the recipe for. Turmeric-tinted acar is my contribution to this week’s WHB, hosted by Lia of Swirling Notions.

Acar Kuning :
(recipe from South East Asian Food by Rosemary Brissenden)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 brown onion, sliced lengthwise
2-3 red chillies
a few bird’s eye chillies
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar, or less to taste
1.5cm piece fresh ginger, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
1 cup water
500g raw vegetables, eg. 150g snakebeans, cut into 4cm lengths; 150g carrots cut into matchsticks; 75g cauliflower florets; 100g cucumber with skin, cut into 4cm strips

Paste Spices :

2cm piece fresh turmeric, chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder)
4 roasted candlenuts (or macadamia nuts), roughly smashed
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

Grind the spice paste ingredients into a paste. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the spices and the onion until everything smells fragrant. Add the two kinds of chillies, each sliced into three, the vinegar, sugar, ginger, lemongrass and water. Bring to the boil. Put in the vegetables and stir until the sauce thickens a little and the vegetables are lightly cooked.


  1. Cakelaw said,

    February 25, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

    I love the sunny colour that turmeric gives everything, but I too hate the staining. The first time I used turmeric, I put yellow stains on a favourite shirt (not realising its “staying” qualities).

  2. Y said,

    February 25, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

    I keep doing things like that to my favourite shirts too! Sometimes it stains, but usually the culprit is some form of dark chocolate, which thankfully does wash out. I really should remember to wear an apron while cooking.

  3. swirlingnotions said,

    February 26, 2008 @ 10:25 am

    Fascinating! Thanks for the entry. I’m going to try making these the next time I serve curry.

  4. Kalyn said,

    February 27, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

    Very interesting! I don’t think I’ve seen fresh turmeric for sale here, just dried. My brother is mad about turmeric so I know he’d love this.

  5. W said,

    August 20, 2008 @ 9:55 am

    You initial comment makes me want to say:

    I control the horizontal. I control the vertical.

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