A relative of the macadamia nut, candlenuts are found throughout Southeast Asia and Polynesia. The name candlenut is a reference to their high fat content, which allows the nuts to be lit on fire, where they’ll ignite and stay lit just like candles! In Hawaii, they’re also called kukui nuts and are famously used in poke.
Candlenuts are delicious when roasted, which they should always be — they’re slightly toxic when raw and should never be eaten this way! Not to mention, they simply taste better roasted; doing so neutralizes the toxins while making them more flavorful in the same way that many spices become more pungent after roasting.
After roasting, candlenuts are often chopped up or ground into a paste for seasoning or to thicken curries. They’re somewhat creamy and nutty and lend a full, satisfying characteristic to dishes.
Whether to snack on or use in your own cooking, you can find candlenuts in Uwajimaya’s grocery department.