Acar Awak: A Tangy Treat from Southeast Asia

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Acar Awak, often called just Acar, is a delicious pickled vegetable dish that’s a big part of Southeast Asian cuisine, especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. This tangy, spicy, and slightly sweet pickle is a testament to the region’s vibrant food culture, turning everyday vegetables into something special.

A Bit of History

The word “Acar” comes from the Persian word “achar,” which means pickle. This style of pickling spread to Southeast Asia through trade and cultural exchange, evolving over time to include local flavors and ingredients. Acar Awak is particularly popular in the Peranakan or Straits Chinese community, which combines Chinese, Malay, and Indonesian culinary traditions.

In Southeast Asia, Acar Awak is more than just a side dish; it’s a staple at celebrations like weddings, Chinese New Year, and Hari Raya. It’s usually served with grilled meats, rice, and other dishes, adding a burst of flavor and color to the meal.

What’s in It?

Making Acar Awak is all about balancing flavors and getting the right mix of ingredients. The main components are common vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, and long beans. These veggies are chopped and quickly blanched to keep them crunchy and bright.

The magic is in the pickling mixture, which includes vinegar, sugar, salt, and a blend of spices like turmeric, mustard seeds, and dried chilies. This gives the pickle its signature yellow color and a spicy kick. Sometimes, roasted peanuts and sesame seeds are added for extra crunch and flavor.

Here’s a simple recipe to try at home:


  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 small cabbage, chopped
  • 200 grams of long beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of dried chilies, ground
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts, coarsely ground (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Blanch the Vegetables: Boil a pot of water. Quickly blanch the cucumber, carrots, cabbage, and long beans for 1-2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Make the Pickling Mixture: In a saucepan, mix vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add turmeric, mustard seeds, dried chilies, garlic, and ginger. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Combine Everything: Pour the pickling mixture over the blanched vegetables and mix well.
  4. Add Nuts and Seeds: If you’re using them, stir in the roasted peanuts and sesame seeds.
  5. Cool and Marinate: Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a glass jar. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving to let the flavors develop.

Good for You

Acar Awak isn’t just tasty; it’s also good for you. It’s low in calories and packed with vitamins from the fresh vegetables. The turmeric and ginger add anti-inflammatory benefits, making it a healthy addition to any meal.

In a Nutshell

Acar Awak is a delightful and nutritious way to enjoy vegetables, highlighting the rich and diverse flavors of Southeast Asia. It’s a versatile dish that’s perfect for adding a zesty touch to your meals, whether it’s a special occasion or just a regular day. Give it a try and experience a taste of Southeast Asian tradition!