Peter Tan’s Petai Masak Pedas


Petai (Parkia Speciosa) are abundant during the durian season of June and July here. It is also known as stink beans for its foul smell, much like the stench of burnt rubber. It also has a slightly bitter taste. It is a delicacy to those who appreciate it not only for its unique taste but its supposedly medicinal property of countering diabetes.

Petai beans

There are several ways to eat petai. The simplest is to remove the beans from the pod, remove the white membrane and eat it raw. For a little more flavour, it can be eaten with sambal belacan and mashed dried prawns. The pod can be toasted over embers and the beans removed and eaten the same way. Another is to make dried prawns sambal and add petai to it. One recipe I like is the Sambal Petai and Prawns.

Peter gave me some petai a few days ago. Since I have developed an allergy to prawns, it was substituted with chicken. I would have loved to use tom yam paste for the dish but it is not something I should indulge in. I settled with using onions and soy sauce for taste. No salt was used but I believe it would have tasted better with some. The following was what I cooked up for today’s lunch.

Spicy stir fried petai

Peter Tan’s Petai Masak Pedas

1 cup of petai beans
2 onions, cut into wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 dried chillies, remove seeds and soak in water for 10 minutes

1/2 chicken breast, cut into 2 cm slices

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp thick soy sauce
2 tsp soy sauce, or to taste
1/2 tsp sugar, or to taste
(a dash of salt, or to taste)
1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp corn flour

Heat oil in wok. Add garlic and stir till fragrant. Add onions and dried chillies and stir till fragrant. Add chicken and stir for 2 minutes. Mix the thick soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar and water and pour into wok. Stir for another 2 minutes. Add the petai beans and stir for another 2 minutes. Dissolve corn flour in a little water, pour into the wok and stir until the gravy becomes thicker in consistency. Remove from wok and serve with rice. For an extra dose of spiciness, add chilli padi together with the dried chillies.

Stink Beans


After being unwell for such a long time, I have almost forgotten how it feels like to be in the pink. I am slowly recovering but I feel very worn-out all the time. It must be from the days that I had eaten little, fearing that if I overloaded my digestive system with heavy food, fever would set in again. I think my body is not getting enough nutrition with all the light meals I had taken for it to get well again. The fasting had not done me any good and I am beginning to have an aversion to all the bland food that I have been taking for the past weeks.

Today I decided to cook something tasty and appetising – sambal petai prawns. It was nasty too considering I should not be eating anything spicy so soon. The petai had been sitting in the fridge for a few days and it would be such a waste to throw them away if it was not cooked soon.

The one drawback with petai is that is stinks up the toilet. Its stench is akin to burning rubber and can be overpowering at times. That is why it is called stink beans by the Chinese. It is believed that if one ate petai with brinjal (eggplant, aubergine), it would cancel out the stench. It is also believed to be beneficial to diabetics and those suffering from kidney problems.

The petai tree can grow up to a height of 30 meters. With its height and brittle branches, plucking the petai can be dangerous. I have heard of people falling to their death while harvesting the pods. Considering the dangers it posed, 50 sen per pod is not that expensive a price to pay.

I am sharing the recipe below. I do not have the exact weight for the tamarind and volume of the water used. Some would prefer it more sour and less sweet, in which case, add more tamarind juice and less sugar. Anyway, cooking to me is not an exact science as different people have different perception in taste.

Sambal petai and prawns

Sambal Petai and Prawns

Ingredients for pounding:
12 shallots
4 cloves garlic
2cm section turmeric
6 stalks lemon grass, finely sliced
3 red chillies

5 tablespoons tamarind
1/2 small bowl of water

150g prawns, shelled and deveined
petai beans from 6 pods

4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small bowl of water

Pound the lemon grass, turmeric, chillies, shallots and garlic until fine. Heat oil and fry the pounded ingredients until fragrant. Mix the tamarind and water, sieve and add together with the bowl of water and let simmer. Add petai beans, sugar and salt. Add prawns when about ready. Remove when the prawns are cooked. Serve with rice.