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Tony Tan's Malaysian-style roast turkey with cucumber acar

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for Tony Tan's Malaysian-style roast turkey with cucumber acar.

By Tony Tan
  • 1 hr preparation
  • 2 hrs 15 mins cooking plus draining, cooling, pickling, brining, standing, resting
  • Serves 6
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Tony Tan's Malaysian-style roast turkey with cucumber acar
You'll need to begin this recipe 2 days ahead.
"I don't remember when we started cooking turkey for Christmas but I have vivid childhood memories of picking bits of delicious meat from the bird. Perhaps it was during the days when my mother worked as a cook for the British, perhaps it was for friends and neighbours who dropped by when service was over in the Chinese restaurant we had. I do, however, remember that we brined our turkeys to make them juicy and tender, as free-range birds in the tropics were rather chewy. I also remember we ate the turkey with Indian acars, roast vegetables, potato salad, beef rendang and lots of salads. This cucumber acar or pickle is perfect with all kinds of roasts and curries. I make large batches of pickle at once to save time."


  • 1 free-range turkey (about 5kg)
  • 2 onions, cut into wedges
  • 500 ml dry white wine
  • 375 ml chicken stock (1½ cups)
  • 40 ml brandy
Cucumber acar
  • 4 Lebanese cucumbers, unpeeled, halved lengthways, seeds removed with a spoon, cut into 5cm batons
  • ½ garlic head, cloves separated and thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 90 ml vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 180 ml white vinegar
  • 80 gm caster sugar
  • 3 each long red chillies and long green chillies, seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • 250 gm rock salt
  • 200 gm white sugar
  • 1 tbsp each whole allspice and whole black peppercorns
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
Chestnut and lemongrass stuffing
  • 100 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary or sage
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, minced
  • 250 gm coarse fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 150 gm peeled cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped (see note)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp finely grated lime rind, plus juice of 1 lime


  • 1
    For cucumber acar, combine cucumber in a bowl with a heaped teaspoon of fine salt. Transfer to a colander to drain (1 hour), rinse under cold running water, pat dry. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 100C. Scatter garlic on an oven tray lined with baking paper and dry in oven (25-30 minutes), set aside. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and, when just warm, add turmeric. Remove from heat, add vinegar, sugar and 180ml water and season to taste with salt. Return to heat, stir until sugar dissolves, set aside to cool. Place cucumber, garlic and chilli in a non-reactive container. Add cooled pickling liquid to cover, then refrigerate for 2 days before eating. Cucumber acar will keep refrigerated for 1 month.
  • 2
    Meanwhile, for brine, bring rock salt, sugar, bay leaf, spices and 8 litres water to the boil in a large saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium, simmer for 5 minutes, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill completely (1-2 hours). Submerge turkey in brine in a non-reactive container and refrigerate (24 hours). Before roasting, remove turkey from brine, pat dry inside and out with absorbent paper and stand at room temperature (1-2 hours).
  • 3
    Meanwhile, for chestnut and lemongrass stuffing, melt butter over low-medium heat, add onion and garlic, sauté until onion is translucent (6-8 minutes). Stir in parsley, rosemary, thyme and lemongrass, stir occasionally until fragrant (1 minute), transfer to a large bowl, add remaining ingredients, season to taste and cool completely.
  • 4
    Preheat oven to 180C. Spoon stuffing into turkey cavity, truss legs with kitchen string. Scatter onion and a few bay leaves from brine in the base of a large roasting pan, place turkey on top, rub with butter and season to taste. Add wine and 250ml stock to pan, cover breasts with foil and roast, basting frequently, for 1 hour, replenishing with more stock, water or wine to stop juices from drying. Remove foil from breasts and roast, basting occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through (25-35 minutes; juices should run clear when thigh is pierced with a skewer). Remove turkey and onion from roasting dish, cover loosely with foil, rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Spoon excess fat from roasting pan (discard), return pan to stove over medium heat, add brandy and remaining stock. Stir to deglaze, simmer until reduced to a rich sauce (10-15 minutes), season to taste and strain through a fine sieve into sauce jug. Carve turkey and serve with onion, pan juices, stuffing and cucumber acar.


Note Cooked chestnuts are available from select delicatessens and grocers.
Drink Suggestion: Sparkling shiraz. Drink suggestion by Max Allen