or met ya ruang, or kayii or kayuu. Or met thai khrok or met hua khrok. Or perhaps even met mamuang himaphaan. These are all the different Thai dialect words for cashew nuts. The English word, cashew, is almost certainly a cognate of the Portuguese cajou, which apparently originates from the Tupi word acajú, and which is most likely also the source of kayuu, the term used on Phuket, the thought being that the Portuguese first introduced the fruit to Asia from its native Brazil.
Met ya hui and met ya ruang, however, are the terms used only on the island of Ko Yao Noi, in the Phang Nga Bay, not far from Phuket. As in much of the south, cashew trees are just about everywhere on this beautiful island, their yellow and red fruit emitting a sweet smell and making colourful stains on the roads:
Most of us have only ever eaten cashew nuts plain, but in the south, cashews are used in various local-style curries, and the fruits are sometimes consumed as a sweet snack. I’ve also recently seen a cashew-based bottled drink here in Bangkok.
To prepare cashews for consumption, the nuts are first collected, separated from their fruits and dried, as illustrated at the top of this post. The next step involves roasting the nuts:
This is done in large black woks with holes in the bottom to encourage the nuts to catch on fire, causing a toxic substance in the shell to dissipate. When the nuts are flaming, hissing and emitting a shocking amount of black smoke, they’re dumped onto the ground to cool:
After being peeled, the nuts can be eaten at this point. But if the cashews are to be packaged and sold, they’re typically roasted in ovens first:
They’re then graded for quality (whole nuts without any shells demand higher prices), packaged and sold: