Yongchak pods are medium to large in size, averaging 30-45 centimeters in length, and are long, wide, ribbon-like, and sometimes twisted in shape. The green pods grow in clusters on tall trees, and when immature, the pods are flat and almost translucent. As they mature, the seeds begin to form within the pod causing protrusions, and the pod becomes tough, hard, and vibrant green. Inside the pod, there is a cream-colored, slippery film that encases the seeds and each pod can hold 15-20 seeds. The seeds are pale green and are similar in size to almonds. Yongchak beans have an unusual smell, often compared to natural gas, and are crisp, soft, and tender with a rich and pungent flavor.
Yongchak beans are available in the late spring.
Yongchak, botanically classified as Parkia speciosa, is a long twisting bean that is a member of the Fabaceae or pea and bean family. Also known as Petai, Stink bean, Smelly bean, Tree bean, Bitter bean, Peteh, Parkia, and Sator, Yongchak beans grow on trees that can reach over thirty meters in height and are a very popular legume in India and Southeast Asia. Yongchak beans grow rampant in the wild and have a unique smell earning them the nickname “stinky bean.” Yongchak beans contain an amino acid that may cause a smell in urine similar to asparagus and sulfur, reinforcing the stinky moniker. Predominately incorporated into stir-fries and curries, Yongchak beans are used in a wide variety of culinary applications and are cooked with strongly flavored ingredients to help counteract their unusual smell.
Yongchak beans contain fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, riboflavin, and thiamin.
Yongchak beans are best suited for cooked applications such as roasting, stir-frying, deep-frying, and sautéing. When young, the pods do not contain fully developed seeds and can be used whole in stir-fries or consumed raw, pickled, or fried. When mature, Yongchak beans must be peeled before cooking and can be boiled in coconut milk or stir-fried with shrimp, curry paste, garlic, and chilies. It can also be roasted in the pods and eaten similar to edamame. To remove the seeds, carefully use a sharp knife to cut the pod or scrape the outer layer off into a bowl. Yongchak beans can be dried, causing the seeds to turn black, and stored for extended use, or the beans can be pickled in a sour brine, creating a slightly rubbery texture without the loss of flavor. Yongchak pairs well with chilies, garlic, onions, turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, oyster sauce, shrimp, beef, pork, or poultry, and rice. The beans will keep for a week when stored in a cool and dry place and will keep for a couple of months when fermented.