Many readers emailed and asked about candlenuts or buah keras when I posted the Udang Masak Lemak Nenas recipe by Nyonya Pendek Melaka.
An important ingredient in Nyonya (and Indonesian) cooking, this post serves as a brief introduction of candlenuts, or buah keras in Malay, or kemiri in Indonesian. On the packaging of candlenuts, you will mostly see the above three names: candlenuts, and kimiri, as most candlenuts found here in the United States are made in Indonesia…
Candlenut is quite possibly one of the secret ingredients of Nyonya cooking. My late grandmother who was a Nyonya used a lot of candlenuts in her cooking, especially when making curry dishes. My uncle told me that when candlenuts are ground and cooked in curries, the oil in the nuts lend a very creamy texture to the dishes, hence they make curries thicker and super delicious. I am a firm believer because my late grandmother would always ask for buah keras when she was cooking.
If you can’t find candlenuts at your local Asian stores, you can use macadamia nuts as a substitute as they have a similarly high oil content and texture when pounded.