Sometimes, we’re in the mood for something delicate, turbot steamed in lemon leaves perhaps, or thinly sliced East Coast fluke in a nage of verbena and freshly picked chervil. We’re a fan of delicately scented souffles that vanish into hot, eggy air at the touch of a fork, and of sashimi so fresh that the only taste is that of the sea. Still — and we type this with fingers strongly redolent of the ripe Alsatian muenster we had for lunch — there is a certain appeal to food you can smell across the room. (A certain family member has forbidden us from bringing masala cashews, whose lashings of asafetida can smell dismayingly of dirty diapers to the person not eating them, into the house.) If you’ve ever, say, had the salted squid guts at a crowded izakaya, you know what it is to have a diner across the room wrinkle her nose at the contents of a small dish in front of you. While we are all too aware of the pleasures of Taiwanese stinky tofu, ripe durian from Malaysia and the notorious Filipino condiment bagoong, we would forgo all of those for a small helping of the infamous sataw, a southeast Asian legume whose name is sometimes translated as “stink bean,” and whose flavor can be likened to that of a fava, times a hundred. They make you pay attention, those things. And while there are any number of sataw dishes available in Thai and Indonesian restaurants in Los Angeles, we are especially fond of the softshell crab with sataw at the Southern Thai restaurant Jitlada, a close equivalent of tempura moistened with a complex curry that mellows and transforms the powerful bean.
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