We have this fabulous prawn dish with stinky beans, cooked bloody red with chili. It is well known in the region, that each neighboring country has their own version. And as everybody would tell anybody who’s willing to listen, they would think their mothers make killer spicy prawns with sataw beans, infamously known as sambal udang petai. I, without fail, think that way about my mother too. She really does cook the most delicious sambal udang petai I have ever had!

This sambal udang petai is supposed to be salty, sweet, sour and spicy. So the overly generous use of salt, sugar, chili and other spices are expected. This is not for the faint-hearted.

Get the freshest prawn you can lay your hands on. Peel off the shell, leave the tail shell intact. The prawns look much better when the tail is left on, since the prawns will coil less during cooking. De-vein as much as you can, of course.

And the stinkiest beans you can find. Wash thoroughly with cold water, avoid soaking or the smell will be ten times worse! If you see any holes, even the tiniest, use a sharp knife and cut the beans right in the middle. Most often than not, the ones with holes will have worms in them. Really fat ones. I squealed about 15 times when cleaning this bunch! Get rid of them! The worms AND the beans.

Chop tomatoes into smaller pieces. If you wish to use tamarind pulp, omit this, and vice versa.

Grind garlic, shallots, candlenuts and chilies in a mortar using a pestle, or any kitchen appliance that would finish the job. Process them to coarse chili paste.

Heat some cooking oil in a wok and quickly fry the beans. Beware of the oil splatter. It just went crazy as soon as we added the beans. I believe not many people cook the beans prior to stir-frying with chili paste, but we think this step is extremely important to get rid of the earthy taste.

Slowly but sure, the beans will fluff up and turn bright green. This is when they are done.

Beautiful beans! Stinky, but beautiful!

Heat some more oil in the same wok and stir-fry chili paste. Add some sugar.

The paste is done when it turns a shade darker. It is ready to accept the other ingredients.

Add the tomatoes and stir-fry quickly.

Add some water and cook over medium heat. If you would like to use some coconut milk, add a couple of tablespoons now. You won’t regret it.

To get that deep and rich color, add some sweet soy sauce. Season with salt.

When everything is blended well, toss in the stinkies and Thai bird’s eye chilies

Simmer over low heat.

When the sauce starts to get bubbly, toss in the prawns.

Ready to be served! Enjoy this with steamed rice. And I am not ashamed to admit that I did mop the chili sauce up with some bread.


Spicy Prawns with Sataw Beans, Sambal Udang Petai

Makes 4 servings


3 garlic cloves
10 shallots
2 candlenut
75 gr chilies

1/4 cup cooking oil, more for stir-frying sataw beans

2 tomatoes, chopped coarsely
2 cups water
2 tbsp coconut milk (optional)
2 tbsp sweet soy sauce, Indonesian brand is preferred
1/2 tsp salt
10 g Thai bird's eye chilies
100 g sataw beans (or stinky beans or petai)
250 g prawns


Grind garlic, shallots, candlenuts and chilies in a mortar to coarse paste. Set aside for later use.

Heat some oil in a wok and stir-fry sataw beans quickly, about 1 minute.

Heat the rest of the cooking oil in the same wok over high heat. Add the chili paste and sugar. Cook for 2 minutes till the paste turn slightly darker.

Toss in the tomatoes, stir-fry quickly for 30 seconds.

Add water and coconut milk. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Season with salt and sweet soy sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes till the liquid slightly thickens.

Toss in chilies and sataw beans. Cook for 3 more minutes before adding the prawns. The prawns will cook less than one minute.

Remove from heat and serve with steamed rice.

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19 Responses to “Spicy Prawns with Sataw Beans, Sambal Udang Petai”

  1. 1

    Christin P — December 7, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

    Arrgggh! This red hot goodness is killing me! This is my ultimate favorite food. I’m an Indonesian living in the States and when I made the trip home this past summer, I ate bunch of these sambal petai and may I brag a bit…but my mom made the best of it! And your recipe seems to be a perfect resemblance! Would love to make it here if ONLY I can find the precious petai…sigh….

    Anyway….I love your beautiful site! Has been reading it for over a year. I guess it took sambal petai to make me delurk:)

    Btw…do you live in Medan? I have family there and actually I grew up for a few years in Pematang Siantar. Your sweet potato chai pao recipe you posted a while ago brings so much memories of my grandmother, who made the best of them!!

    • Jun replied: — December 8th, 2010 @ 11:25 am

      I am so happy you delurked! Yes I am still living in this city!

      Siantar people make the best chai pao ever! Look at us go all hysterical over food. :D

  2. 2

    Ellie (Almost Bourdain) — December 7, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

    This is such a great dish. Too bad, my husband is not a big fan of petai. No chance of cooking this at home. Your dish looks really good!

    • Jun replied: — December 8th, 2010 @ 11:26 am

      Aih you commented! It is such an honor! I read your blog for months now! You are so amazing! Thank you for visiting.

  3. 3

    Marysol — December 8, 2010 @ 7:36 am

    You know, I may need reading glasses.

    I read: ‘Satan’ beans instead of Sataw beans. But then, having looked at your delicious, finished product, I would deem this one a devilish dish indeed!

    • Jun replied: — December 8th, 2010 @ 11:28 am

      LOL .. It is indeed satan beans.

  4. 4

    tigerfish — December 8, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    Yep! I know this is famous and you know what? I have not eaten it before!

    • Jun replied: — December 9th, 2010 @ 11:54 am

      I have never eaten sataw beans myself. Till this day. Couldn’t bring myself to taste them yet *facepalm*

  5. 5

    OohLookBel — December 8, 2010 @ 8:00 pm

    I can smell the stinky beans already (unfortunately!). The red paste and tomatoes are so vibrant and the whole dish looks amazingly tasty.

    • Jun replied: — December 9th, 2010 @ 11:55 am

      I was a bit skeptical when it turned out so red after cooking. But luckily the color wasn’t too bright in the picture :)

      Thank you for your comment!

  6. 6

    noobcook — December 9, 2010 @ 1:41 am

    You have been whipping up lots of amazing foods lately… always making me salivating :p~

    • Jun replied: — December 9th, 2010 @ 11:55 am

      I found out that cooking relieved my stress! :)

  7. 7

    Marisol Perry — December 21, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

    I found out that cooking relieved my stress! :)

    • Jun replied: — December 26th, 2010 @ 10:09 am


  8. 8

    Nona Mills — December 22, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    LOL .. It is indeed satan beans.

  9. 9

    Kevin (Closet Cooking) — January 1, 2011 @ 10:27 am

    Those are some tasty looking prawns!

  10. 10

    asianfoodophile — August 8, 2011 @ 5:41 am

    OMG!!! My favorite beans. I can eat them raw or boiled in its entire skin with sambal. Whether got maggots or not inside cannot see so everything goes inside stomach. No harm done. Maggots also got nutrition.

    It also goes well fried with sambal hae bee. To keep sambal udang longer add more oil when cooking. Old nonya taught me.

    Another way is to cook sambal udang and add the beans. Yummy.

  11. 11

    Sataw beans; Asian stink beans that grow on trees - Chef-a-gogo — September 29, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

    [...] cracking recipe with great photos of sambal prawns and sataw beans from [...]

  12. 12

    Jay — April 24, 2014 @ 10:51 pm

    Hi..I would like to try this recipe. What do you mean by 75gr chillies? Is it dry chillies.

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