Sambal Petai

One of my favorite chili salsas: Indonesian sambal petai. This homemade sambal contains loads of petai (parkia speciosa) beans also known as bitter beans, twisted cluster beans, or stink beans. They have a very specific, peculiar taste. To me it smells a bit like gas. Yes, gas.

Beb Vuyk has no sambal pete or petai in her book, but I think this sambal belongs on this blog. It is great with fish especially shrimps and vegetable dishes.


100-120 grams of petai beans
150 grams of chillies
3 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons of chopped onions
40 grams of santen (coconut cream)
1 teaspoon of laos (galangal)
1,5 teaspoons of trassi  (shrimp paste)
1 teaspoon asem (tamarind) mixed with 2-3 tbl water
1 sereh (lemongrass) stalk
50 ml of water

I buy petai beans at an Asian specialist shop from the freezer. I never use the ones they sell in jars. The do not taste as good. The frozen ones have the best flavor.

The asem (tamarind) I use is from my Asian shop too. It is already filtered and sold in a small jar.

Santen is coconut cream or boiled down coconut milk. I buy them in rectangular, solid, blocks. If you cannot get santen, use full fat coconutmilk in stead (about 30 ml).

You can use fresh galangal root the size of a thumb and then cut in two ;-). Fresh galangal or laos is wonderful, but I still have loads of laos powder left, so I use that.

I cut the lemongrass 3 pieces and hit them with something heavy so the juices can run out more easily.

Trassi or shrimp paste is used in more Asian cuisines, like Thai cuisine. It has a very strong smell, love it. In Indonesian cuisine it is used a lot in vegetable dishes.


I add peppers, garlic and the onions in a jug and hit it with a blender to make a very smooth sambal in texture.

Don’t hold your nose over it while blending; the vapor irritates eyes and throat from the sharp peppers sting much.

I add my galangal powder when the blending is done and scoop it through.

I cut my trassi in smaller pieces, therefore it dissolves well in the wok.

I heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in the wok and add the chili mix together with the trassi.

I stir fry the sambal well; keep it moving.

After a few minutes some of the liquids have evaporated. Now I add the santen, lemongrass and the asem (tamarind).

I’ve diluted the asem with two tablespoons of water.

The santen melts slowly in the sambal.

I stir the sambal until all the santen has melted and add the 50 ml of water.

and the salt. I use about 1,5 teaspoon.

I taste the sambal now. The beans will add to the flavor too, so easy on the salt.

I cut 2/3 of the beans lengthwise in three neat slices. I leave the reast as they are. That looks nice.

The petai beans can go in now. I stir them through and let the sambal petai simmer for another 5 minutes. I check once in a while if I like the thickness of the sauce.

I have ready a super clean jam jar. Before I add the sambal directly from the hot pan, I rinse the jar with boiling hot water (don’t forget to rinse the lid too).

When the sambal cools, the pot turns vacuum and you can keep your sambal for weeks.

I leave the lemongrass stalks in the sambal petai. The flavor will only become better over time.

Fortunately, not everything fits in my jam jar so we have freshly made sambal petai tonight already! Selamat makan!

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