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Stink Beans aka Twisted Cluster Beans

These look like normal fresh beans, right? Maybe a cousin of the delicious fava? That’s what I thought when I picked up a pack for the steep price of $1 from the Tesco Lotus down the street. I couldn’t make out the name in Thai, and a crude translation named them cluster beans. Mmmmm, cluster beans.

I think it was a longing for a simple farmer’s market meal à la 101 Cookbooks that made me so excited about the verdant beans with their exorbitant price (like a farmer’s market!) and styrofoam backing (not like a farmer’s market!). As soon as I spotted them I imagined giving them a quick, high-heat sauté with just a bit of salt, a whisper of garlic, and perhaps a finish with the last bits of my elicit olive oil stash.


It came together well enough. I cooked about half the package until they were a bit scorched on the outside, but tender on the inside with a subtle crunch. If only I’d had a little parmesan and lemon zest to add a bit more dimension, but alas I live in Thailand…

I ate a few forkfuls enthusiastically, but on the fourth or fifth bean, I realized something was…off. I warned Andy not to try them, and fished the leftovers out of the fridge to see if I had perhaps accidentally selected my produce from the sale section of the produce aisle (side note: I love that Thai grocery stores have a sale section).

Nope. They were like steaming heap of excrement from a dog fed nothing but discount wet food: fresh as can be, yet totally nauseating at the same time. After a bit of quality Google time, I discovered the true nature of the beans by their name: STINK BEANS. Imagine the worst garlic breath you’ve ever had multiplied by 200 and infused with methane and natural gas. THAT is what it’s like to eat a stink bean.

With every breath, every exhale I polluted the ambient air in our apartment more and more. And it didn’t go away for a whole day. The stink bean smell stayed in the back of my throat, my breath, my…my…(this might be TMI) pee. It made me sick.

But when the effects waned, they waned completely. After two sleeps I woke up with only the usual morning breath and acknowledged my gratitude for the passing of the stink.  I forgot about my encounter with the stink beans until a few days later, when I made toast with butter and jam for breakfast and was confronted by a mouthful of gross. Grossness in my mouth.

The leftover stink beans had perfumed everything in the refrigerator with a permeating gassy stench that seemed equal parts organic and chemical, including the delicate spreads for my morning bread.

It was my fault, of course; I meant to throw the beans away days ago. Yet every time I picked up the tightly wrapped satchel of green pods, I felt compelled to put them back in the refrigerator. I didn’t want the stink beans to sit in the trashcan, smelling up the entirety of our already smelly apartment, and I never remembered them when taking out the trash.

Let me tell you, stink bean-infused breakfast will give you the motivation to put on pants and make a very special garbage run. It might even inspire you to arrange the feisty little suckers on a plate and photograph them before you go.

I guess the moral of the story is never try anything new without first doing tons of research, and if you don’t like something, throw it away immediately. Right? That’s what I got out of all this.

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8 Responses to We Need to Talk About Stink Beans

  1. Mark Wiens says:

    Haha Susan! I can’t argue against anything you’ve mentioned… but somehow I absolutely LOVE it – it really is among my top 10 foods in the entire world.

    This may gross you out, but I love stink beans so much I just eat them raw now, straight out of the pod and accompanying my meal, sometimes with a dip in some “nam prik kaphi.” They go down like candy!

    Another thing that’s equally wonderful is called “luk ngian.” Have you ever tried them? It’s almost like sataw, but bigger and often a little tougher.

  2. Sophie says:

    Thanks for the warning. Hope Lost in Space doesn’t decide to try them.

  3. Katie says:

    Oh I SO want to hear Andy’s side of this story….

    • Susan says:

      He didn’t eat any! And he didn’t have an aversion to the smell in the fridge. I think you have to eat it to understand it, unlike durian.

  4. HAHAHAHA! Ohmygod this made me laugh. I was chuckling just from the title alone. I’ve never heard of stink beans before. I’d like to say TMI on the pee, but who am I to talk about dishing out details of bodily functions? I can’t believe they ruined your precious spreads, too! Nasty buggers.

    • Susan says:

      I know it was terrible. Everyone talks about durian, but these guys are just HIDING, waiting to come out and ruin your weekend.

  5. Deepkr says:

    I love to eat stink bean n flower of the tree <3

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