Petai with dried shrimp sambal

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In one of my posts earlier I mentioned ‘Petai’ (stinking bean) and its health properties. This stinking bean can be eaten raw with sambal belacan, cooked with fresh prawns, mixed with other vegetables in a stir-fry, cooked in curry and many more ways.

There is only one way I always cook my ‘petai’, that is with pounded chili, dried shrimps (hae bee) and assam water. This dish makes my guests come scrambling for more.

This recipe requires the use of a very Malaysian ingredient called ‘Belacan’, also known as shrimp paste. Shrimp paste consists of tiny shrimps fermented with salt, pressed into shapes like blocks of butter or round discus pieces which are then wrapped in brown paper or vacuum packed for freshness. The smell is pungent and only a small portion is required for a single dish. Another important Malaysian ingredient here is the ‘Assam’ also known as tamarind paste. This paste is used to give this dish a sour tinge.

Ingredients (serves 4)

300 gm petai (halved, remove the small stem inside the bean)
200 gm dried shrimps (pre-soaked in warm water and drained)
150 gm fresh red chilies (seeded)
3 dried red chilies (soaked for 5 minutes, discard water, seeded)
5 shallots (peeled)
1 piece of toasted belacan (2 cm square)
1 Tbsp assam paste (soaked in teacup of  hot water, discard seeds and retain the murky assam water)
6 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 sea salt


  1. Pound chilies, shallots and belacan into a rough paste (not too fine in texture).
  2. Add in shrimps and continue to pound till shrimps are blended in together with the chili paste.
  3. Heat oil in a wok and pour in the pounded ingredients, fry till fragrant, add sugar and then the assam water. Let the paste simmer in the assam water for 15 minutes to allow it to blend in all the flavours.
  4. Finally add in the petai and stir for 5 minutes or until the petai turns a darker green in color. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Petai is best served with white rice. (Remember to cook an aubergine dish to offset the petai exotic fragrant)

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