Sataw, or stinky beans, are southern food. The name stinky beans is definitely earned, and recipes with stinky beans are for those who dare to try something not ordinary. You can look at stinky beans as the food to order when on a bad date. But if both of you are having stinky beans, like garlic, you'll not notice the other person's malodorousness. Once you look beyond the namesake trait, you will find that stinky beans add a unique flavor to the dishes they are in.
If you are driving down to the southern part of Thailand, you will see extremely tall sataw trees lining the highways. The beans come in pods that are a foot to a foot and a half long with 15-20 beans per pod. The beans are about the size of your coat button or 2 centimeters in diameter. Sataw used to grow in the wild but is now cultivated. By nature, sataw trees do not have many pests, which make them easy to grow organically.
There are two types of stinky beans, sataw kow and sataw dahn. Sataw kow is rounder, nuttier and less stinky than sataw dahn. Sataw kow's bean pod is twisted while sataw dahn's is straight like a plank, hence the name dahn or gradahn (plank). Sataw kow is eaten fresh while sataw dahn is pickled first. Sataw is a good source of vitamin A, calcium and phosphate.
At Oriental markets, you can find fresh frozen stinky beans in the frozen food section and pickled stinky beans in glass jars. I have noticed that frozen stinky beans seem to smell stronger than when they are fresh. Most Thai recipes that use sataw call for fresh, but fresh frozen beans are a good substitute. The pickled ones are normally eaten with chili sauce (nam prik).