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April 16, 2018 | by  | in Food |
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Feeling Good About Petai

The cold and dark weather on our doorstep could signal to some of us that we should start taking care of ourselves better. As a believer in the idea of food as medicine, eating well this winter can ensure that we make it through alright, both mentally and physically. Hence, as I seek now to channel the instincts of care with which my grandmother nourished me on to you, it would be remiss of me not to share with you a secret herb that brightened our days.

Looking back through the veil of nostalgia, lunch and dinner with grandma always contained of a plate fresh of local herbs, or ulam . This variety of fresh herbs would typically be eaten raw, or sometimes dipped into a tangy sambal. I mostly kept an open mind (and mouth) about these bitter herbs, however there was one particular herb I just could not accept. It was the petai. Known scientifically as parkia speciosa, or kato to Thais and kupang to Filipinos, the humble petai is found all across South East Asia. Petai looks like a broad bean; green and the size of your big toe nail. Appetising to folks who love fresh greens, the ecstasy though quickly fades.

“It smells like shit,” young me exclaimed, pushing her feeding hand away.

“It tastes like arse too,” my grandmother replied with a smile.

Since then, I have come to appreciate the wonders of petai, or as the British in typical flourishing nomenclature have called “stink beans”.  Petai contains tryptophan, a kind of protein which the body changes into serotonin. Yes, one of petai’s main benefits is to help with depression, and works to relax and stabilise you. Petai is said to be a great cure for hangovers, by enhancing blood glucose levels. Petai is also very good for your bowels (I can back this up anecdotally, great stories). Being high in potassium and essential fatty acids, it is said to help with cardiovascular health. We are also told that it prevents the occurrence of anaemia and help with diabetes and high blood pressure. On top of that, petai contains a combination of specific vitamins such as B6 and B12 which can help with nicotine withdrawal. And the list goes on.

While I am not suggesting that this bitter bean is a silver bullet to your woes, I am suggesting that more than placebo, it will help you out somewhere along the line. These stinky bitter beans are readily available in the freezer section of Moore Wilson’s wholesale. With nutrients locked in from the freezing process, it is best to put it back in the freezer when not in use, as it is likely to spoil quickly. I recommended having some raw before a Tinder date. If not, partially cooking it greatly reduces its intensity on the tongue. A good way to do that would be to throw in a handful of them midway through cooking an Asian stir fry or fried rice dish.

As I sit at my kitchen table struggling to market myself as a desirable product for sale in my CV, I am reminded that maybe I too suffer the same fate as the Petai. Potentially beneficially in ways you would never imagine, yet side-lined by its unfamiliarity and strangeness.

Parkia speciosa, $4.74 — Moore Wilson’s Supermarket

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