by Iyath Adam
Kanamadhu, also known as sea almond, tropical almond, or Indian almond, is a type of nut largely native to tropical shores.
Small, oblong, and thinner in shape than the “traditional” almond, kanamadhu has a slightly earthier taste. The nut comes from a large tropical tree known as Terminalia catappa or midhili gas in Dhivehi. It is extracted from the fruit of the tree, midhili gobu. Once the midhili gobu falls to the ground, it is dried in the sun, then cut open with the use of a machete or kathivalhi. The kanamadhu inside is then taken out and sun-dried again, before being eaten as a snack or used in cooking.
Kanamadhu is used in Maldivian cuisine, to add texture and enhance the flavour - in both sweet and savoury dishes. Traditionally, kanamadhu is used to make sweet snacks such as metaagandu and kanamadhu gulha – both of which uses kanamadhu as the primary ingredient.
Recently, perhaps the most well-known kanamadhu dish is the kanamadhu cake, an entirely Maldivian invention. Other modern interpretations with it include kanamadhu chocolate fudge and kanamadhu halva. Sweet boakibaas such as fehi boakibaa, paan boakibaa and githeyo boakibaa use kanamadhu both in the topping and mixed into the batter.
In savoury dishes such as folaa, chicken biriyani or musamma (a type of dry curry which can be made with chicken, fish, or vegetables), kanamadhu is lightly fried while caramelising the onions to infuse the dish with its nutty flavour.
Kanamadhu is also widely used in Dhivehi beysverikan or traditional Maldivian medicine. A type of hilibeys – a medicinal snack given to new mothers – is also made with kanamadhu as the primary ingredient.