Acar Chee Ya Hu (pickled mullet fish)

Acar Hu © Adrian Cheah

This is one of my mum's favourite acars. She has been making this for as long as I can remember. It is such an appetising dish when served with a bowl of steaming white rice.

Like other Nyonya acars, this dish is a combination of sweet and mostly tart flavours. However, the other ingredients, like onions and garlic still impart their individual aromas. The deep-fried fish absorbs the gravy and becomes succulent and moist.

Acar Hu © Adrian Cheah

Besides Mullet fish, you could also opt of chunkier fish filet to make this dish.


  • 1 kg fish fillet or small whole fish (e.g., 'chee ya hu')
  • 2 tsp salt (or according to taste)
  • Oil for deep frying the fish
  • 30 g (5 cm) fresh turmeric root, sliced thinly
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 100 g young ginger, sliced thinly
  • 100 g garlic, sliced thinly
  • 30 g (3) red chillies, seeded and quartered
  • 30 g (3) green chillies, seeded and quartered
  • 250 ml vinegar
  • 8-10 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt, or according to taste
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted
  • Turmeric powder
  • Cili padi (depending on spiciness)


  1. Clean and gut fish and season with salt and turmeric powder. Deep fry the fish until golden. If you want a crunchier bite, you could fry the fish using a stronger flame. Drain oil from fish and set aside.
  2. Fry turmeric slices in 4 tbsp oil until the oil turns yellow and fragrant. Discard the turmeric.
  3. Using the turmeric oil, fry the ginger and garlic until golden brown. Leave aside to cool before adding the red and green chillies, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. Set aside to cool.
  4. When all is at room temperature, add in the fried fish. If you add in the fish when the gravy is still hot, it will loose some of its crispness. Allow to pickle for at least 2 days for the fish to absorb the flavours before consuming. If not consuming immediately, keep it submerged in gravy in a clean glass jar. With time, this dish taste better and keeps well for about a week at room temperature and longer in the refrigerator. Serve garnished with sesame seeds.

Acar Hu © Adrian Cheah

Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah 
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