stink beans
A Delicacy That Divides

The world’s love-hate relationship with Thailand’s infamous ‘stink beans’

Words: Sarita Urupongsa

Delicious or disgusting? Diners are often divided by Thailand’s famous “stink beans”. However, along with their pungent fragrance, they come packed with a healthy cocktail of protein, calcium, phosphorous, iron and vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C. Regular consumption of these beans is believed to nourish the eyes, blood, reduce flatulence and help clear the tummy.

As for the “stink”, getting rid of it is simple – just put the beans on a rolling boil and then wash them. Or opt for the old-school method of roasting the pods over a charcoal fire for a minute or two. These beans can also leave a strong odour in the mouth, but this can easily be fixed by eating a couple of raw Thai eggplants.

Bitter beans, as they are officially known, can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, especially in the South, where they are consumed either fresh or grilled with chilli paste or just added to curries.

The most popular dish that features these smelly delicacies is Phad Sataw Goong or stir-fried prawns with bitter beans. The recipe is easy: Pound together garlic, bird’s-eye-chillies and shallots and stir-fry them until you get a nice aroma. Then add shrimp paste and palm sugar. Once everything is nicely mixed, add the prawns and bitter beans. Season with fish sauce and a splash of lime juice and serve with hot rice.