Petai, stink beans, bitter beans… whatever you choose to call it, there is no denying this bean has a special place in many a Malaysian’s heart. Cooked, raw or even pickled, it’s everyone for themselves when a dish cooked with petai is served up for lunch or dinner, never mind the lingering taste and after effects when you visit the loo later… Plus, considering its health benefits, any time is a good time to have your stink beans!
Grown in bunches on trees that can reach 30 metres in height, the stink bean pod skin is thick and not usually eaten. A lot of the petai we consume are actually grown in the wild. Harvesting these beans is risky business, as the primary method for getting it off the tree is to climb it and cut the bunches down with a knife. This is probably why the most common place to find fresh petai are in make-shift roadside stalls along highways or little village roads.
So now that you’ve got your bundle of petai in hand – have you bought enough? – what are you going to do next? Whether you plan to eat it raw as an ulam, or cook it with sambal or fried rice, you’re going to have to peel it first. Different makcik’s may have different techniques of getting bitter beans out of their pods, but we’re sharing with you a method we found especially effective and efficient – and it’s a classic.
Petai peeling 101
- Lay your petai on a flat surface.
- Using a small knife, place the butt of the blade at a 15° to 20° angle against a bean pod.
- To slice, drag your knife from butt to tip across the pod in one single motion. Don’t worry if you cut into the bean.
- Pluck the beans out.
- There’s a thin layer of skin covering petai beans. Sometimes, the skin gets stuck to the pod, but most times you’ll need to peel it. This layer is edible, but it’s definitely a good idea to remove the skin or your mother-in-law will not be impressed.
- To peel the skin, just find a spot where it is torn or cut (or make a small cut if unblemished) and peel it off.
- This step is optional, but recommended. Slice the stink bean in half. Skipping this step may seem tempting, especially when your raw petai looks perfect. However, caterpillars love petai and can get pretty fat and juicy feeding off petai beans. So, slice your bean in half and check for these pudgy critters before putting them into your ready to eat or cook pile. Discard the ones with caterpillars!
- Always get extra petai as most pods only have five to sixteen beans, depending on the length and variety.
- Instead of removing and peeling stinky beans one by one, simplify your process by completing one task at a time. For example, slice all the pods first, then remove all the beans, peel the skin next, and finally slice them in half. You can apply this process to your other mise en place (kitchen tasks) to help you be more efficient and neater in the kitchen.
Now that you’ve peeled your petai, what are you going to make? We’ve got some delicious petai suggestions in the links below. Don’t forget to share your pictures with us by hashtagging #butterkicap!