Hyacinth bean, or better known as ‘Pang Pei Dau/ 彭皮豆’ in Cantonese, or Avarakkai in Tamil. There are a few varieties of this bean – some have purple edges and others are completely purple in colour.
Young beans are used in curries and stir-fry. However, my family prefer to use it to boil soup.
Other names of Hyacinth Bean
- English name: Hyacinth Bean/ Indian Beans/ Egyptian Kidney Beans
- Scientific name: Lablab purpureus (dolichos lablab)
- Malay name: Kacang Kara/ Kacang Sepat
- Chinese name: Pang Pei Dau/ 彭皮豆
- Tamil: Avarakkai
Where to get it
This is not a very common/commercialised vegetable. You’ll probably never see it in supermarkets like Jusco or Jaya Grocer. If you’re lucky you’ll get them at the wet market.
The plant grow wild over a trellis that he built and produces huge amount and consistent supplies of beans. Uncle Man often give us bag full of them.
Choosing and handling the beans
Choose beans that are clear, bright, even colour, and uniform in size. It must not be shrivelled.
Older beans are more fibrous, so we remove the tips. We then soak it in water before cooking.
According to Wikipedia, this plant is both a medicinal and poisonous plant.
“The fruit and beans are edible if boiled well with several changes of the water. Otherwise, they are toxic due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides, glycosides that are converted to hydrogen cyanide when consumed.”
I was a little alarmed about this information and doubted if this is truly the bean that my community and family has been consuming for years. In ‘Malaysian Vegetables In Colour’, a book by H.F Chin, it is mentioned that it’s best eaten raw or sauteed.
Besides, Wikipedia also mentioned that in Bangladesh and West Bengal, the pods and the beans are cooked as vegetables or cooked with fish as a curry. In Vietnam, the beans are used in making chè đậu ván (Hyacinth Bean Sweet Soup) and in Africa it is served to breastfeeding mothers.
I know I will continue cooking and eating this delicious bean.