Cooking up a stink with petai

When it comes to petai, you either love it or hate it.

Colloquially called stink bean, the petai bean (parkia speciosa) is so pungent, if you do not like it, you may even find it offensive to be near those who eat it.

It also has a bitter edge and is an acquired taste.

The petai’s characteristic flavour is due to cyclic polysulphides, one of the bean’s major compounds.

This smelly bean is one of two main ingredients in this week’s featured recipe on ST Food Online: Petai And Salted Fish Fried Rice.

A friend I met up with recently loves the dish. But the petai in the petai fried rice we had at an eatery turned out a little too raw and hard for us.

Some people like it that way. Not me though. I prefer the petai beans to be a little more tender. For my version of petai fried rice, I blanch the petai.

Some petai lovers may be outraged at this but hey, one of the perks of home cooking is that you get to adjust the taste and texture of a dish to your liking. 

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2 rice cups of raw long-grain rice (280g)

250ml water (for rice)

11/2 litres water (for petai beans) 2

1/2 tsp salt

300g petai, each bean split in half

6 Tbs cooking oil

50g raw ikan bilis

70g raw salted fish, cut into 3cm by 2cm pieces

2 red onions (260g), sectioned

5 garlic cloves (30g), chopped

3 eggs (55g each), beaten

3 Tbs dried chilli paste

2 tsp belacan powder

1 tsp turmeric powder 11/2 tsp sugar


1. Place the rice and 250ml of water in a rice cooker and cook. Once the rice is cooked, remove it from the cooker and allow it to cool to room temperature.

2. Bring 11/2 litres of water to a boil and add 1 tsp of salt.

3. Add the petai into the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from the water and drain excess water.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Place the ikan bilis in the pan and fry for five minutes over medium heat until the ikan bilis is crispy. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper to drain excess oil.

5. Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Place the salted fish in the pan and fry for three minutes over medium heat until browned. Remove from the pan and place on kitchen paper to drain excess oil.

6. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and over medium heat, fry the onions for one minute. Add the garlic and fry for 45 seconds.

7. Add the beaten eggs. Fry for 30 seconds until the eggs are half-cooked, add the chilli paste and fry for one minute.

8. Add the petai and the rice, and use the frying spatula to break up the chunks of rice.

9. Add the belacan powder and turmeric powder.

10. Stir-fry for 30 seconds. Season with 11/2 tsp of salt and the sugar.

11. Stir-fry for another minute. Turn off the heat. 12. Garnish with the fried ikan bilis and salted fish. Serve immediately.

Serves five to six people