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what to do with candlenuts, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves

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I bought them on impulse at Kalustians. I've used lemongrass and kaffir leaves in curries before, but never candlenuts. I'm open to anything. Thanks.

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  1. first thing comes to mind: rendang. are you familiar with Nyonya cookery? candlenuts are common in Malay and Indonesian cookery. note: do not eat the nuts raw.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pata_Negra

      Have you looked at any of the threads for May's COTM, Cradle of Flavor? I liked the cookbook so much I ended up buying a copy. Those three ingredients show up in a lot of the recipes. If you're in New York, I know the NYPL has a copy, since I just returned mine this afternoon. Like Pata_Negra says, candlenuts are poisonous raw, so be sure to cook before eating.

      1. re: Emmmily

        I just tried to reserve it but I have too many on hold already. This new ten book limit is killing me!

      2. re: Pata_Negra

        The package of nuts says not to eat them raw. Thanks for the warning though. I decided to flip through a charmaine solomon asian cookbook. I found a few different things in the Indonesian section that look great.

      3. Aside from thai curry pastes, I use a lot of lime leaf and lemongrass for stuffing the cavities of chickens before I smoke them. I use the stuffing twice. Somewhere near the end of fall, I'll smoke up 15 chickens, and vaccuum pack them. Lime leaf and lemongrass permeated chicken flesh is effin good, and it freezes perfectly.

        1. Traditional Hawai'ian cuisine uses inamona, which is roasted candlenuts (aka kukui nuts) ground with salt. It's often served with sashimi, and is a critical ingredient in poke. Here's one of my favorite recipes:

          Cube a pound or so of 'ahi (yellowfin) or 'aku (skipjack) tuna. Sprinkle generously with alaea salt (substitute sea salt if you don't have alaea) a teaspoon of inamona, and a few tablespoons of Aloha shoyu (if necessary, substitute standard Japanese soy sauce, but Aloha is da kine you want). Add some finely sliced sweet onion (preferably from Kula), a couple of scallions, chopped, and a big handful of ogo, limu, or other seaweed. Add a little ginger and some sesame oil, let marinate for at least an hour, and you're good to go.

          As Pata_Negra says, don't eat the candlenuts raw. Even cooked, moderation is the key. They have a powerful laxative effect.

          6 Replies
          1. re: alanbarnes

            That sounds really good. I don't know anything about Hawaiian food.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              I had no idea you could use kukui nuts for eating!! Every time I go to Hawaii, I buy Kukui nut oil as a MOISTURIZER! It's great for your hair and skin (and cuticles, and feet, etc.) It's made by oils of aloha and you can only find it in HI. I knew that they were called candlenuts because the native Hawaiians used them as lights due to their high oil content. Thanks for the tip on eating them. They MUST be good for you. Mahalo nui loa. adam

              1. re: alanbarnes

                This is very timely, I recently returned from a trip to Hawai'i during which I became addicted to poke. I was actually about to create a post called 'What makes Poke Poke?' but I guess there's no need. Interesting about the kukui nuts, I sampled many different pokes but never noticed any nuttiness, either in flavour or texture. Given that you say it's a critical ingredient, can you recommend any substitutions? (I haven't looked for candlenuts in Toronto, but I'd be surprised to find them). What qualities would you say the addition of inamona adds to the poke?

                1. re: dxs

                  Purists frown on it and would insist that you mail order inamona, but I've found that ground macadamia nuts or cashews make an acceptable substitute.

                  As far as what it adds, you've got a little oiliness, a little texture, and a hint of nuttiness. It's not a prominent flavor, but it really rounds everything out.

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Good to know, thanks. I did bring back alaea salt, so at least that component will be 'authentic'.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      The author of Cradle of Flavor, referenced above, recommends macadamias as a sub for candlenuts for the oiliness and texture they bring.

                2. i'm SUPER jealous. i can't find kaffir lime leaves locally. grr. i'm in minneapolis, you'd think one would be able to track some down in such a diverse city. anyways...i think they are WONDERFUL in rice.

                  1. They're poisonous raw? I ate a couple of raw candlenuts in East Timor and nothing happened.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Apparently the raw nuts contain the toxins saponin and phorbol, but not in sufficient quantities to be medically dangerous except to young children and other especially susceptible individuals.


                      So they won't kill you, but if you eat enough of them you'll probably regret it.

                    2. I had a lot of extra lemongrass, kaffir leaves, ginger and galangal after a thai cooking spree so this weekend I made infused vodka. I did one lemongrass-kaffir and one ginger-galangal. I'll let you know how they come out next week.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: yamalam

                        Make a lovely lemongrass syrup to brush onto delicate meats or drizzled over fruit. Just make a simple syrup (one part water one part sugar) and add bruised lemongrass stalks. Boil about 10 minutes and bring to room temperature. Strain. Lovely! Can also be added to drinks.

                        Same can be done with kaffir lime leaves. In fact, I make a killer kaffir lime leaf jelly that complements duck, lamb, etc.

                      2. Kaffir lime leaves are integral to Thai curries. Also very thinly slivered they make a nice topping for it.

                        One of my favorite things to do with lemongrass is stick the inner part of a stalk (actually cut up into a few pieces) into a steaming pot of jasmine rice (just after the boiling part, so that the 10 minutes or so of additional steaming off the burner with the cover on will be lemongrass-infused).

                        1. I'm growing both lemon grass and kaffir lime. I like to use them in soups (especially chicken soups). I'll finely slice the lemon grass and chiffonade a young kaffir lime for salads. I'll steam salmon or other fish ontop of kaffir lime leaves. I'll steep lemon grass and chopped fresh ginger for tea.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mlgb

                            Are you using the kaffir zest too? As one of those people who only buys the leaves rather than having access to the whole tree, I wonder what that tastes best with.

                            1. re: Cinnamon

                              Yes I have used the zest but the fruit is so knobby and bumpy that it's not a very productive exercise to try and grate the zest (since all you get are the tops of the bumps before you reach the pith). I think I tried making some kaffir lime flavored sugar but it wasn't especially worth the effort.

                              The one time I tried the juice from a green full sized fruit, it was bitter. Maybe I should try some juice from a yellow one. BTW the flowers are tasty!.

                              It's a lot simpler to use the leaves so I pretty much ignore the fruit now.