Annie’s extended family on her father’s side is from George Town, Penang, and every time we’ve gone to visit, we stayed with family. Usually, that meant staying with Annie’s godparents, her uncle and aunt. They are such hospitable and kind folks, and we always loved spending time with them.
Staying at their place is pretty cool because it’s in a relatively quiet neighborhood, but with quick access to some main roads if we want to go somewhere. We could be sitting at home, chatting (usually about where we want to go eat) and the next minute be on our way out for some assam laksa, char kway teow, or nasi kandar.
The neighborhood itself is very walkable. Many times I just take my camera and go wandering off in one direction, looking for neat stuff to snap. It was on one of these jaunts that I came upon a fence that was completely covered in this dense vine, bearing these incredibly blue flowers:
Blue Pea / Butterfly Pea Flower
These were what is known in Malay as “Bunga Telang”, the Butterfly Pea or Blue Pea. It’s scientific name is Clitoria ternatea, because the shape of the flower looks like that part of the female genitals. The plant is native to tropical Asia but can be grown in many climates, even here in the United States, according to Dave’s Garden.
The vines totally engulfed the fence, and the beautiful blue pea flowers were sprinkled throughout the mass. I got really excited and went back to fetch Annie and the kids to enlist their aid in picking some of these flowers. The house inside the fence was undergoing a complete renovation, so I was sure no one would mind if we collected some flowers.
Butterfly Pea / Blue Pea Growing on the Fence
The flowers were easy to pluck off. Just pinch at the base and give a little tug.
Picking Blue Butterfly Pea Flowers
We collected a bag full of pea flowers to take home to Kuching.
Bag Full of Blue / Butterfly Pea Flowers
What to Do?
What was I going to do with them? Well, Malaysians and other Southeast Asians use this flower to make a blue-colored tea extract, and then use that extract to color food, usually rice. I was hoping to do this with the flowers I collected.
Unfortunately, the flowers did not survive the trip back from Penang to Kuching. Sadly, they had gone bad and I could not use them.
Here are some ways that other bloggers use Blue / Butterfly Pea Flowers:
Butterfly Pea Flower, Blue and Purple Food Color Extract by Pranee’s Thai Kitchen
Pulut Inti Nyonya Kuih by Rasa Malaysia
Pulut Tai Tai by My Kitchen Snippets
Kuih Seri Muka by A Daily Obsession
Blue Rice (Nasi Kerabu) by Jewel Pie
How would you use bunga telang? Leave us a comment below!