I would consider myself an adventurous eater. Of course you know that if you are reading this blog right now. Before embarking on my round-the-world trip, I told all my friends about the blog and my intentions for it. I asked for suggestions on unusual foods that I should eat on my travels. My friend Christie had heard somewhere of a dish that she wanted me to try – stink beans.

Technically named Parkia speciosa, this bean is native to SE Asia. According to Wikipedia, this treat is usually cooked in dishes that have other strong flavors like shrimp and fish sauce. The effects of eating the aptly named stink bean may be smelled up to two days later. Once I read this information, I was just dying to try a stink bean dish.

Landing on the island of Koh Phi Phi, in the Andaman Sea off the West coast of Thailand, my travel companions and I quickly found an inexpensive guesthouse to rent for a couple of nights. After settling our things in the room, we set about exploring the touristy shops, restaurants and bars throughout the isthmus that joins the two sides of the island. We got a recommendation for several restaurants from one of the guys that was promoting his dive shop near the beach. One of his suggestions was for a restaurant called Rimlay Seafood, so following his directions, we walked along the beachside street to find this place. Near its entrance was it’s small replica boat full of fresh seafood, which was reposing on a bed of ice. The catches of the day had no prices so I began asking the employee nearest the boat in what preparations they were cooking certain attractive-looking seafood, and the general prices of the dishes. After choosing to have a small red snapper grilled whole, my companions and I sat down at a table. The waiter came over with menus so we could order drinks and I flipped through several pages until I glanced at the bottom of a certain page. I saw this and stopped.

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A dish with stink beans? This was the first time in nearly a month of traveling through Thailand that I had seen stink beans offered on the menu. I had already ordered a main course but in the interest of the blog and my good friend’s request, I had to order and try the dish. The waiter looked at me with confused hesitation when I ordered a second main course, but hurried off to relay my order to the cook. A few minutes later, as we were amused in conversation, a wave of aroma overtook the open-air restaurant. It rolled through, thick like hot garbage in summertime, before dissipating into the breezy night’s beach air. “The stink beans!” I thought to myself. My companions looked at me. Their scowling gazes revealed that they blamed me for the immediate assault to their olfactory senses. Shortly thereafter, my plate arrived; shrimp, veggies, and stink beans!

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I hung my nose over the plate and inhaled the green, almond shaped beans deeply. I noticed a slightly off-putting smell, but not necessarily a “stink.” I scooped a couple onto my spoon and chewed thoughtfully. They had the texture of semi-cooked soybeans with a mild taste. It was the aftertaste that I noticed most. The taste/smell of old garbage hung at the back of my throat all night, even after brushing my teeth. The next morning my mouth felt the same. The “stink” had lingered overnight and into the following day. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, but I could tell it was lurking inside me, like a tapeworm from a forgotten night in Tijuana.

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After finishing my first main course, I moved on to the grilled snapper. My companion, Maria, had ordered a grilled squid, which they put on the same plate as my fish.

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The snapper tasted as you would imagine – like fish. Nothing too dangerous in my second meal.

All in all, the bean dish was tasty. Fresh shrimp sautéed with vegetables – the most notable smell/flavor being the cloying odor of the stink beans, which wasn’t altogether unpleasant. The beans actually took on a little of the shrimp and fish sauce flavor. I would definitely order a stink bean dish again, and it’s definitely a healthier option than any fried foods that are prevalent among the street carts here. A word of advice though, is don’t plan on making out with anyone within 24 hours of eating the meal – your breath won’t be the only stinky emissions you’ll notice!

Do YOU have any suggestions of unusual foods you think I should sample next?

4 Responses to “What’s That Smell?”

  1. lam
    19 October 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Garbage mouth. hahahaha

  2. Christie R
    11 October 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    This is SO awesome! I’m so glad you tried it. And I’m proud of you, Harms. I hope my recommendation wasn’t too bad of an experience for you. But you described it very well. Thanks for letting me know how it went!

  3. Christina turner
    11 October 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Oh Harms!!! I giggle thru this entire post 🙂 Man alive, I can’t believe you’d eat it again considering you smelled like a garbage can inside and out – hahahaha! You’re awesome sauce. I’m gonna roll my brain around this odd food suggestion and get to ya..
    Miss you and love the posts/pics!

  4. Shawn
    11 October 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Harm, if you run across the real dumplings they look Doug baseballs let me know what they are like they look so good but I have never tried them.