Tag Archives: Malaysians

Loving That Little Bit of Stink

Petai sambal is best eaten with hot, steaming rice.

Petai sambal is best eaten with hot, steaming rice.

THERE are some types of food that people would put up with with. That others would never step within a 10 foot distance of. Like balut in the Philippines, stinky tofu in Hong Kong; petai (stinky bean) in Malaysia and several parts of Southeast Asia; stir-fried worms and a various assortment of six- to eight-legged critters in Thailand, to name a few.

One of my favourite dishes of all time is sambal petai.

Sambal petai, easily found in my home country of Malaysia, is most definitely an acquired dish. The beans, though not as offensive-smelling as the stinky tofu (which you can smell at least 100m away #truestory), still packs quite a powerful pong. The dish consists of petai (a kind of bean) and fresh medium-sized prawns cooked in a spicy paste consisting mainly of shallots, garlic, and dried and fresh chillies (I add bird’s eye chilli in it for more heat). It’s best served with hot, steaming rice, ad is certainly one of life’s many joys for me. Throw in a side of onion omelette or stir-fry brinjal and you’ve got yourself a complete meal.

Petai, a stinky bean that is commonly found in Malaysia and some countries in Southeast Asia.

Petai, a stinky bean that is commonly found in Malaysia and some countries in Southeast Asia.

While you can’t truly separate taste and smell when it comes to appreciating food, I personally find that the stink of the petai is mainly on the nose. The taste is a little milder and somewhat ‘green’ and pulpy. Petai can be eaten in many ways — raw with sambal belacan, stir-fried with other vegetables, or cooked in a sambal style. My preference is to eat it cooked in sambal or stir-fried in a mixed-veg dish.

I grew up eating Mum’s version of sambal petai, cooked with shrimps, onions and cili boh (ready made spicy paste which negates the need for tedious peeling, blending/grinding the ingredients). While I’ve enjoyed Mum’s sambai petai immensely, I’ve also grown to appreciate the flavours that come with making the dish from scratch. It’s not very difficult and, if you have time to spare, I would recommend it.

Once you've stirfried the spice blend in oil till fragrant, add the shrimps and tamarind juice. Season and add the petai and keep on the fire till shrimp and petai are cooked.

If you’d like to try the dish out, here’s the recipe. Beware, though: all that chilli will make your hands burn for an hour or so. Note: Petai attracts flies, so you might want to keep the beans covered at all times, or in the fridge until it’s ready for use.


200g petai (halved and cleaned)
10 – 15 medium prawns
50g tamarind pulp (mixed with 1/2 cup water)
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Spice paste (blend the following)

20 shallots
10 fresh red chillies
8 – 10 dried red chillies
3 birds eye chillies
3 cloves garlic
8 candlenuts
8 – 10g belacan (toast before cooking)


1. Heat oil in pan and stir-fry spice paste till fragrant.

2. Add in strained tamarind juice and shrimps. Bring to a quick boil. Note: tamarind juice can be adjusted to taste. Some like a little more sourness to the dish.

3. Add seasoning to taste.

4. Add petai. Keep on the lowered heat till the shrimps and petai are cooked.

5. Serve with rice 🙂



1Malaysia is…



1. When I hear a Tamil song playing in the background and it doesn’t strike me that it’s a language I don’t understand until much later. It’s so familiar; I hear it spoken every day in multi-ethnic Malaysia — it IS life as I know it in my own backyard.

2. When I walk into Hai Peng coffee shop in Kemaman and see that it’s a trend for Malays, Chinese and Indians to be laughing and chatting over a meal — at the same table. I also saw a Chinese woman treating a Malay couple to a seafood dinner at Tong Juan Restoran which serves the best stuffed crabs in Kemaman. Does this only happen in Kemaman?

3.  When one wholeheartedly embraces cultures other than their own. Kinda like Mavin Khoo and Ramli Ibrahim. None of that “Indian dance meant for Indians only lah” crap.

4. When more than 200,000 Malaysians of all races unite to protest the mega tower project. So rakyat-oriented. So nice!

5. When the Chinese enjoy eating with their hands and the Indians and Malays have no problems eating with chopsticks and bowls.

6. When Malaysians acknowledge their neighbours and start practising the long-forgotten ritual of sending a specially cooked dish across the fence for no reason other than the spirit of goodwill, friendship and semangat muhibbah.

7. When I have relatives who have married Malays, Indians, Chinese and Mat sallehs and their children are so rojak, it’s just so much easier and more inclusive when I call them Malaysians rather than try to do a breakdown of their race.

8. When non-Chinese students study in Chinese schools because their parents encourage it — not because it’s a novelty or because they are feeling kiasu, but because they think it’s a great idea, so why not? And, also very importantly, because the Chinese school administrators have willingly embraced these non-Chinese into their midst.

9. When there is no need for distinction of race  or religion in application forms; all one needs to do is check the box marked “Malaysian” or “non-Malaysian”.

10. When principals refrain from setting a bad example by making derogatory racist remarks and sowing seeds of discord among young minds. Think, what will the country become in 10 years’ time?

11. When  the government actually does something and takes action against such principals and school heads instead of talking about it till the cows come home (and still wind up not doing anything at all, or just giving them a mere slap on the wrist). Speaking of cows… now that is a whole, umm, kettle of cattle? Cattle of lembu? altogether, specially when cowheads are involved. Go ask the not-so-1Malaysia people.

12. When you’re proud to sound like a Malaysian, nevermind how many donkey-years you’ve spent studying abroad. Some inflection in the speech is fine, but a total revamp in the accent?? Hello? I know when you ‘masuk kandang kambing mengembek, masuk kandang kerbau menguak’, but when you balik to your own kandang, why wanna mengembek or menguak?

13. When the word 1Malaysia stops sounding like a catchphrase and becomes a way of life.