Raising a stink
I have a pretty tolerant palate, and I am willing to try almost anything. But even I was put off the first time I was confronted with the aptly named stink beans, ordered by a friend at a Malaysian restaurant. Also called petai, the large flat beans grow in long, tight-fitting, twisted pods. Removed from their pods, the petai resemble broad beans, except they are slightly wrinkled, rather than smooth. The beans smell as if they have been fermented, although this is their natural odour. They are said to be highly nutritious, containing large amounts of protein and fibre as well as vitamins. As with other strongly scented foods, such as durian and Epoisses, if you can get beyond the smell, you will find stink beans to be quite delicious.
After the stink beans are extracted from the pod, they need to be peeled of their tough skin, and they are often halved so the small white sprout can be removed. The beans are usually cooked with other strong-tasting ingredients, such as belacan (fermented shrimp paste), sambal and shallots, to balance the flavour. For a nutritious stir-fried dish, make a sambal paste by pounding garlic, shallot, ginger, tamarind paste and dried shrimp in a mortar. Heat oil in a wok and cook the sambal, stirring constantly until the oil rises to the top. Add the prepared stink beans and stir fry until tender before serving with bowls of white rice. To make the dish more substantial, add peeled shrimp.