Monday, September 28, 2009

Foods to make you stink: Petai Beans




Unless you've travelled to Southeast Asia, it's likely that you've never eaten petai. And many people would say that you're not missing out - why would anyone want to eat something often referred to as "stinky bean"?

The petai bean (Parkia speciosa) is also known as the twisted cluster bean. It is most commonly eaten in Indonesia and Malaysia (the name petai is Malay). It is also relatively common in Thai and Lao cuisine, and you can often find the beans imported to the West being labelled with the Thai name, sataw or sator. It is also known to the Burmese and the Burmic peoples of North Eastern India.

It is classified as a member of the family Fabaceae, and thus is related to all the other bean varieties commonly used around the world. Indeed, when podded it resembles a young lima bean, with an impressively bright shade of green and almond-like shape. Its pods, which hang from trees up to 30m high, resemble longer, twisted versions of broad bean pods.

So how stinky are they? Well, the beans themselves are not particularly stinky at all. But once you eat them, you will begin to notice things. Like your urine and faeces will bear the unmistakable petai smell. That's clearly not a big deal, since no one expects their excretions to smell nice anyway. But the effect on your breath will be more worrying. Your breath won't smell too horrible - its not as bad as, say, raw garlic - but its enough to bug you. And when you burp - and believe me, if you eat petai you will burp - you get to taste the petai's odor all over again.

While raw garlic is worse, garlic-smell on the breath only lasts around a day at the most, typically. It is not uncommon for the smell of petai to be burped up and excreted for up to 3 days. So before eating petai, you really need to evaluate your chances of getting some kissing action for a few days. Because unless that person has also been eating petai, they're not going to think too highly of your oral hygiene unless you are constantly cramming in the Mentos. Drinking a lot of water may help to flush the smell from your system, but I ain't promising anything.

Oh, and being a bean, it naturally contains the kind of complex carbohydrates that cause increased flatulence as the digestive system works to break it down. And of course, that flatulence will carry the distinctive petai smell.

So, what about the taste? Is it so delicious that it is worth being a bit whiffy for a day or so?

Well, to be honest, the taste is a tad funky. Not bad, but certainly not exciting. The bean has a mild bitterness to it that is vaguely reminiscent of brussels sprouts. While many Westerners are averse to bitter foods (despite liking beer and coffee), Southeast Asians are quite partial to them. Some claim it has significant health benefits (as is often the case with bitter-tasting foods), but I'm not convinced of the veracity of some of the claims I've read. At the very least, like other beans it is a useful source of protein.

Young petai can be eaten raw, but are not so pleasant. They take on a new life when combined with other strong flavours however. In Malay cuisine petai often appear in a selection of ulam (raw vegetables and herbs) and are eaten with a chili sambal on the side. Or they will be cooked into the sambal itself - Indonesia's fiery and garlic-laced sambal petai is one of the best uses of the bean, although its not for the faint-hearted. Prawns are often added to the sambal as well, which is a classic combination. The Indonesian fermented soybean cake tempeh, which also has a slightly bitter acquired taste, is also a good partner for petai; they are usually cooked with sweet soya sauce (kecap manis) which balances the flavours nicely. The beans can be cooked into an omelette as well, although this is just asking for trouble flatulence-wise.

Nasi goreng petai is my favourite way of using the bean. It follows the usual Malay/Indonesian way of making fried rice (lots of shallots and garlic a must), but with extra chili sambal. Pungent shrimp paste is often used, with scrambled egg stirred into it. The end result is a reddish fried rice studded with the green petai beans. It's a dish which is likely to make you fart, burp, sweat and stink like nothing else, but it's great stuff.

It should be said that petai is not popular with everyone in the countries that use it - some don't find it to be pleasant-tasting, and many just don't want to have to deal with the after-effects. Personally, I don't eat it very often for the latter reason.

It's not always easy to find petai in the West, but groceries that cater to Indonesians and Thais are likely to carry them, either tinned, or in frozen form - I'd take frozen, personally.


In the same countries as petai you may also find its relative, the jengkol bean, which I may post about it someday. It is even stinkier.



See also: Foods that make you stink: Fenugreek

Sataw on Foodista

18 comments:

  1. They certainly are very pretty to look at, though.

    As for the taste of raw garlic, you talk about it as it it's a bad thing ;-) I also love brussel sprouts, though.

    It's that wonderful time of year again, asparagus season, talking of stinky excretions.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Helen,
    don't get me wrong, the TASTE of raw garlic is not bad at all, in small quantities. However, what I don't like is having dragon-breath for a whole day after consuming said garlic. Trust me, once I kissed a girl who had been eating raw onion and it wasn't a great experience! Garlic is even worse than onion in that sense.

    I dig the brussels sprout as well by the way, although I understand why they are not popular - you need to know a good way to cook them. Plus people appreciate bitter tastes more as they get older.

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  3. can anyone tell me how or where can i buy this petai stinking beans online

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  4. HI some one an tell me how i get this beans on line in USA

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  5. @ avner and anon:
    your guess is as good as mine. Google it. Look for companies that import Thai foods, perhaps?
    Thais usually refer to them as sataw or sator.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi there, I came across your blog as I was searching for benefits of petai beans :)
    Despite being a petai lover, I understand your dilemma of not wanting to deal with the after effects. Until I came across one great tip to overcome the smell.

    Drink tea after you ate those beans, the thicker the tea the better, and voila ! There's very little trace of petai (or being Indonesian, we usually called them peteh) smells in your breath and your excretement.
    For added camouflaging effect, do brush your teeth or else try eating cucumber (fresh one, not cooked or pickled).

    Now, I'm still on search of the best way to combat garlic and durian aftersmell lol. . .

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  7. @ PearlJade:

    thanks. I must say though, I drink enormous amounts of tea already, and I'm not sure if it makes much difference to breath smell. Maybe it does.

    Apparently chewing parsley is the way to go for most food-related breath problems.

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  8. Hello! I found this blog in Foodista and followed it here. I enjoyed reading the replies as much as I enjoyed reading the post. Good jobs everyone! By the way you can place more Foodista widget in your past and future blogs so that other Foodista readers can follow and see your blog too. Just search for a related recipe or food in Foodista and use its widget. I hope to read more from you. Cheers!

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  9. I really like this fruit. especially if mixed with fried rice. hmm yummy. whether any of you who love this fruit too?

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  10. Hello, drink a glass of fresh milk before and after your petai meal, you shouldn't have traces of the smell. I think another one is to eat boiled aubergines (dice a few) after eating petai! Good luck.

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  11. hey, where can i find this beans in minneapolis, MN....i'm dying to have it...will someone please help me find it....i've searched most of the asian stores but they dont have it...:(

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  12. Company called Ayam can these beans. Personally, I find them.disgusting, but being from Asian family, it was common fare.

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  13. Does anyone know where to get petai in Melbourne?
    I normally get from Laguna, but it's way overpriced.

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    Replies
    1. A lot of other Asian groceries sell them frozen, so look around Richmond, Springvale, etc.

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    2. Vicki ShannonFebruary 27, 2014 at 3:55 PM
      Available to buy online at
      http://www.exoticgroceries.com.au
      Berat Bersih (Petai)
      $2.99
      Ayam Brand 170gm Can
      Product of Malaysia
      and
      O-Cha
      $3.99
      Sator Nut in Brine (Petai)
      227gms. Glass Jar

      Delete
  14. I've done a research about pete for 15 years (now 18 years). Pete can cleanse your blood, your body, inner organ etc. I've written 4 booklet about Pete Therapy ... you can buy it from Google Books or download it from my blog (http://bambangbakti.wordpress.com/pete-petai-parkia-speciosa-untuk-kesehatan/) ... look for "Pete Therapy English Version".
    If you follow the Pete therapy for 4 days in a row, the urine, faeces will not stink anymore ... it's mean your blood, your body is allready cleansed ... and you got cured from some diseases: diabetes, hypertension, gout, rhemautic, impotence and so on ... But it's better if you eat the Pete beans and drink the fluid from cooked pete's pot

    ReplyDelete
  15. Available to buy online at
    http://www.exoticgroceries.com.au
    Berat Bersih (Petai)
    $2.99
    Ayam Brand 170gm Can
    Product of Malaysia
    and
    O-Cha
    $3.99
    Sator Nut in Brine (Petai)
    227gms. Glass Jar

    ReplyDelete
  16. I will consider to eat these bean when i enter competition in cramming together inside a car. I will then fart and fart and fart. No european girls can stand with this fart smell. Hi hi hi

    ReplyDelete