I loved these tasty walnut snacks when I was based in China and used to bring home plenty. However, even large reserves eventually run out, so I had to come up with some way of getting my fix. I reckoned they couldn’t be that difficult to make, so I started to look around. I found this recipe in one of Ken Hom’s cookbooks and have been very satisfied with the results.
Makes: Portion for sharing
Preparation: 2 hours drying time
Cooking: 5 mins + deep frying
Boil some water in a saucepan. Place the walnut halves into the water and boil for about 5 minutes to remove any trace of bitterness. If your walnuts are quite fresh, you can reduce this time: it’s really a matter of taste. Drain the walnuts and put into a shallow bowl. Immediately, sprinkle generously with sugar and toss the nuts about to ensure they are well covered. Lift the nuts gently from the bowl letting any excess sugar fall off and place on a non-stick baking sheet or similar to dry for at least 2 hours.
Place the sesame seeds in a dry pan over a low heat. Shake the pan occasionally. As soon as you can see the beginnings of smoke and a toasted smell, empty the seeds into a small bowl to stop the roasting.
When ready to cook the walnuts, heat enough oil to allow deep frying in a wok. You will need a skimmer or similar to lift the walnuts out of the hot oil. The traditional Chinese kind works best. The oil needs to be hot enough to allow the walnuts to sizzle but not so hot that they burn immediately. Test with a single walnut. When ready place the first batch of nuts into the oil. Push around a little to allow all sides to be cooked. They cook pretty fast: about 15 seconds, so pay attention! It is important only to cook as many walnuts as you can lift out in one go, otherwise the remaining nuts will burn. If using the Chinese skimmer, you can place it in the wok first, sort of like a basket and then lift out everything very easily. Remove the walnuts from the oil as soon as they are golden and place on a non-stick baking tray or a very lightly oiled plate. Try to arrange the walnuts in a single layer and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Continue until all the nuts have been fried.
Then see if you can resist the temptation to eat them all in one sitting!