The nut of a large rainforest tree native to Malaysia and the Molucca Islands, Aleurites moluccana. The tree is huge, growing to a height of 20 metres (50 feet) with large shiny green leaves, yielding a crop of nuts twice a year. It is also known as candle berry, Indian walnut and varnish tree.
Candle nuts are never eaten raw, as there is some evidence of a toxin present in the uncooked nut. In 1999 a child was poisoned in Brisbane, Australia after eating raw candlenuts picked from a tree. They have one of the highest oil contents of all nuts, and indeed its use as lamp oil gave the nut its common name. The nut is also used in paints, varnishes, waterproofing paper and soap.
In cookery the nut is mostly ground and used as a
thickening agent. It is an indispensable ingredient in the Malay soup, laksa. The closely related macadamia is often used as a substitute and shelled candlenuts are very similar in appearance to macadamia nuts.
Because of the high oil content, rancidity is often a problem. When buying candlenuts watch for any white residue on the surface which indicates a fat bloom. These nuts will almost certainly be old. Keep candlenuts tightly covered in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible
When looking for these nuts in an ethnic market, some local names may help. In Malaysia they are known as buah keras, Indonesia as kemiri and Hawaii, kukui.