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How to Make Authentic Cucumber and Cauliflower Acar

Updated on October 25, 2011
anglnwu profile image

A certified health and wellness coach, I love discussing food, health benefits and how to keep weight in check,

Cucumber and Cauliflower Acar

Spicy, tangy, sweet, sour, flavorful--this Nonya-inspiired acar has all the flavors to tease the no end.
Spicy, tangy, sweet, sour, flavorful--this Nonya-inspiired acar has all the flavors to tease the no end. | Source

Acar is pickled vegetables in a spicy flavorful assortment of spices and herbs that is capable of launching a thousand taste buds. It will awaken the taste buds to heighten the taste of other foods at hand, so the food tastes exponentially better. Acar is popular in parts of Asia, usually as a condiment or side-dish and a meal is made more enjoyable with a dollop of it. The word “acar” has its roots in Hindi, Urdu, Assamese and Bengalese culture and it simply means “pickle.” One has to surmise that acar has Indian roots although most parts of Asia have put their own regional influence on it. Even the British, with its colonial connection to India has its own version, British Piccalilli—relish of chopped vegetables in a mustard or spicy brine.

Every once in a while, I get an acar attack—a bout of homesickness for authentic food that is hard to find in America. And because it’s so specific and regional—I grew up on the Nonya (Malay and Chinese fusion) version in Singapore, it’s hard to find them even in authentic Asian markets. Living 12,000 miles away from home doesn’t make it easier either—a plane ride away is no way to get your hands (no matter how desperate) on some acar, just to satisfy this massive foodsickness. So, what do I do? I make my own and because Acar keeps well, I can make a lot and keep some for later when I have another Acar attack.

Allow sliced vegetables to wilt in salt, so as to induce crunch value.
Allow sliced vegetables to wilt in salt, so as to induce crunch value. | Source

I make mine depending on what spices I can find and I also make it in such a way that reflect my personal preference, without sacrificing the unique flavor that is characteristic of Acar. You’ll discover that the spices I use are common spices used in Singapore, Malaysia , Thailand and Indonesia.


  • 4 to 5 cucumber, seeded and cut into strips
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • A sprinkling of kosher salt

Put cucumber strips and cauliflower florets in a large coriander, sprinkle some kosher salt, mix well and let it sit for a couple of hours or more. This will effectively draw the moisture out of the vegetables to produce crunchier vegetables. Also, extracting moisture from the veggies will ensure longer shelf life. I also find that if you squeeze out excess moisture with your hands after the sitting out process, it can add even more crunch value.

Seasoning Paste

  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, use the first 2 inches just above the root (the rest can be discarded as the flavor is all in the root region)
  • 4 to 5 red chillies
  • 1 thumb of yellow ginger aka Turmeric (gives it the characteristic yellow tinge that is so beautiful and appetite inducing)
  • 5 to 7 shallots
  • 3 to 5 garlic
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar (or more if you prefer it more vinegary)
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • Salt to taste

Every ingredient used here has health-enhancing qualities from raising metabolic rate (thermogenic spices such as chilies, turmeric) to fighting cancer such as lemon grass.
Every ingredient used here has health-enhancing qualities from raising metabolic rate (thermogenic spices such as chilies, turmeric) to fighting cancer such as lemon grass. | Source
  • Blend first 5 ingredients (lemon grass, chillies, yellow ginger, shallots and garlic) until fine.
  • Sautee blended ingredients in canola oil or grapeseed oil until oil separates from the mixture.
  • Lower flame and add vinegar, sugar and salt.
  • Mix well and allow to cool.
  • Put cucumber and cauliflower in a large glass bowl after extracting moisture. Add cooled spice paste and mix well. Feel free to add roasted sesame seeds/peanuts/cashews if so desired. Allow to sit for 2 to 3 hours. Acar is ready to take on any entrée or rice dishes.

Acar is very versatile and is open to experimentation. In fact, many different types of vegetables and spices have been used, depending on regional spices and preferences.

Note: if you can't find fresh turmeric, chillies or lemon grass, substitute them for the powdered form--use about 1/2 tsp of dried seasoning for the above recipe.

Commonly Used Vegetables, Fruits and Spices

Long Bean
Whole Shallots
Whole Garlic
Green Chilies

Once the Acar is made, you can enjoy it in a variety of ways. You can serve it as a side-dish or use it to cook other adding it to fish stew or using it in wraps or in sandwiches.

Serving suggestion--My very quick and convenient lunch with eggs and a side of rice.

Too lazy to whip up a salad or make  vegetable stir-fry? Just dish up some acar to complete your meal.
Too lazy to whip up a salad or make vegetable stir-fry? Just dish up some acar to complete your meal. | Source

Know of a fellow countryman suffering from the same food craving? Bottle it and give some joy away.

Makes good gifts.
Makes good gifts. | Source

Authentic Food Hubs by anglnwu:

Chicken Stir-fry and Variations

Chinese Dumplings

Laksa Chicken

Beef Rendang

Singapore Noodles

Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.


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  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    moiragallnag, thanks for checking back--yes, fresh turmeric will do the trick. Hope you find some--they also do well in curry.

  • moiragallaga profile image

    Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    Oh so that's what I missed... I used McCormick ground turmeric. Checking out where to find fresh turmeric in Greenhills. Thank you.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    RedElf, glad you know your son and daughter-in-law will like this. Thanks for dropping by to comment.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    moiragallaga, I'm so impressed--you actually tried it! I agree it's very appetizing. If yours is not as orangy, you may want to add more fresh turmeric (bright orange color ) and a little more chili. Again, congrats on your efforts and thanks for letting me know.

  • moiragallaga profile image

    Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    hi, loved this hub and voted it up. I tried the recipe and it was both delicious and appetizing. May I just ask what ingredient I might have missed because my attempt at the recipe didn't turn out to be orange colored?

  • RedElf profile image

    RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

    This looks absolutely delicious! I am sure my son and daughter-in-law will love this recipe. Lovely pictures, too.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Caseworker, I agree if you are not familiar with the food, you may not like it. I grew up eating this, so naturally I find it delcious. Thanks for reading and rating it up.

  • CASE1WORKER profile image

    CASE1WORKER 6 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

    I have to say I am not sure I would like it, however I must compliment you on the style and quality of this hub, voted up and everything else up!

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Ingenira, good to hear from you. Now, you don't have to rely on your Nonya neighbor. Make a batch and enjoy. Thanks for dropping by to comment.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Om, thanks. What can go wrong with turmeric and lemon grass? Have a great weekend.

  • Ingenira profile image

    Ingenira 6 years ago

    I love this nyonya acar. I often get them from my Nyonya neighbour during Chinese new year season here. Now I am glad you have shared the secret recipe for me to try to make it myself and savour. thank you !

  • Om Paramapoonya profile image

    Om Paramapoonya 6 years ago

    This sounds absolutely delicious. When I saw lemongrass and turmeric on the list of ingredients, I knew I must give it a try! Rated up and awesome. :)

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Thanks, comicdust, for voting it up:)

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Prasetio, now you know why I miss acar so much. In Singapore, it's very easy to find acar and my mother used to have it in the fridge,so we can eat it with whatever. Thanks for taking time to comment and I appreciate your visit very much.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Dexter, thanks for your encouraging words. Glad to have met you and hopefully, your attempt will turn out good.

  • cosmicdust profile image

    cosmicdust 6 years ago from Middle of Nowhere

    Voted up and printed the recipe just now.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    onkytombe, thanks for your well wishes. Happy to meet you and I wish you the same.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

    You make me hungry, my friend. I love acar. It's so refreshing to eat acar with fried rice or fried noodles. My mother usually make cucumber acar to complete the main menu. Thank you very much for share with us. I really enjoy your recipes and delicious pictures. Vote up!


  • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

    Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

    Wow! This is a mouthwatering recipe. The photos are outstanding, the information presented beautifully and now all I have to do is try it myself!

    Voted up, up and away! Great hub!

  • onkytombe profile image

    onkytombe 6 years ago from Kebumen, Indonesia

    Thank's for posting this hub, anglnwu. Congratulation and hope you always be healthy and prosperous.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    claudia Tello, sorry they don't deliver international. If you ever cross over to southern California, you can get them at the Asian market. Once you've a stalk of lemon grass, you can easily plant it by sticking it in the ground. They are easy to grow and it lends a wonderful flavor to all kinds of foods from stir-fry to soups. Thanks again for checking back.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    MM, thanks for dropping by to comment.Haha on the drool episode. Have a great day ahead.

  • Claudia Tello profile image

    Claudia Tello 6 years ago from Mexico

    Thanks Anglnwu, I would bye it in the amazon capsule but they don't deliver international :(. I'll see what I can get..... I already bookmarked the recipe for when I get the lemon grass (I'll search all over the city if I have to).

  • Movie Master profile image

    Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

    Another well written and illustrated recipe!

    It's a new one for me and I must admit I have been drooling over the keyboard!

    Thank you for sharing and voting up, best wishes MM

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Thanks, stephhicks, for your kind words and continual support. Glad you're going to try it. Let me know if you like it. Enjoy your day.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Thank you, Manthy!

    Rjsadowski, appreciate your comments as well:)

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Kootheancheah, thank you for adding to this hub with your observation. I agree cauliflower is not normally used in the ones you see at the stores or market. My mother used cauliflower in addition to all the ones mentioned and I really like that. Cauliflower is very crunchy and it has a nutty flavor. I'm glad your daughter loves it. I love it too, that's why I took the trouble to make it--can be time-consuming but I would say, well worth the effort. Again, thank you for commenting.

  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    This sounds so delicious and I love all your photographs, recipe, tips and more. The table is a very helpful way to display the variety of ingredients that can be combined. I will definitely try it!

  • rjsadowski profile image

    rjsadowski 6 years ago

    Excellent recipe and well written.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Arlene, you'll enjoy this and what's more, you can keep this in the fridge for days when you're too busy to throw in fresh vegetables in your diet. Thanks again for your continual support and kind words.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 6 years ago

    Claudia Tello (what a nice name!), thanks for your kind words. You can actually buy fresh lemon grass online--actually, if you look at the amazon capsule, there is one (just saying--haha). If not, you can always use the powdered form--not as flavorful but will do. Lemon glass has a wonderful citrusy smell. Glad you enjoyed the hub and once again, appreciate your comments.

  • manthy profile image

    Mark 6 years ago from Alabama,USA

    Yummy - Voted up and awesome

  • kootheancheah profile image

    kootheancheah 6 years ago from Penang, Malaysia


    This dish is available almost everywhere in Penang. And I eat it very often. However, I have not eaten one with cauliflower in this part of the world. The usual ingredients here are: carrot, cucumber, long beans, and pineapple. Grounded peanut makes the gravy very tasty and is an important ingredient, I think. My daughter who hates eating vegetables loves the gravy. I learned to eat this dish when I was a kid by eating the gravy first--just like my daughter now. ;-)

  • profile image

    Arlene V. Poma 6 years ago

    I've never had this, but I'll give it a try. We are fans of cucumber and cauliflower. Voted up, useful, interesting, and AWESOME. Bookmarked, too. I know we'll enjoy this!

  • Claudia Tello profile image

    Claudia Tello 6 years ago from Mexico

    This is an excellent Hub, congratulations. I love the passion for food you imprint in your writing and you are a good photographer as well. My mouth started watering with the photo of the beautiful seasoning ingredients, isn't nature wonderful?

    I am definitely going to make this recipe. My only problem is that in Mexico it is very difficult to find lemon grass (a true shame, I know) so, do you know for what can I substitute this ingredient? if and only if there is a way..... and I hope so.


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