Just about a year ago I had Walnut Chicken for the very first time. I found it on the menu at a Chinese restaurant in Stroudsburg, Pa. It was one of the best dishes I've ever had in the Americanized Chinese realm. That day happened to be the beginning of a very big life-change and so I've had good feelings about life in general each time I have Walnut-Anything.
At a local Chinese buffet/hibachi hot-spot, there is a dish almost consistently served called coconut chicken. I never tasted coconut myself nor were there any shreds or pieces of coconut visible, but the sauce was white and creamy and studded with bite-sized morsels of battered and deep fried chicken. It's very good stuff.
Tried as I might, I couldn't find a dish similar in any of the Chinese take-out menus I had and each time I stepped foot in a Chinese restaurant, I looked for it. So, when I was in Stroudsburg at that particular restaurant, they had a photo of what looked like coconut chicken on the menu; it was Walnut Chicken.
It was the same sauce, but instead filled with chicken and candied walnuts. Too much was too much, but in moderation ... well, you wanted to eat until you reached the too much stage. I couldn't, however, figure out the sauce. Sweet, but not too sweet, creamy, but not a sauce thickened with any starch ... I was completely flummoxed.
I searched the internet and finally, finally found a recipe. I had to make it, and so I did, but the chicken wasn't the same and I didn't have candied walnuts. In stepped Guy Fieri. Well, not for real, but I did watch and episode of Triple D
that had a recipe for Walnut Shrimp. It was all so simple. I ran to the store, ran back home (I run everywhere) and made it for the first time. I was hooked and so was my Chinese-food-addicted oldest daughter.
Enter California Walnuts
. When we hooked up on Twitter, I knew my Walnut Shrimp and they would be a perfect match. And they are. Before I pass on the recipe, though, you need to know, these walnuts are oh-so-good.
They are larger than other walnuts I've used and unlike many others, there is no bitterness to them ... just sweet, tender nuts that are really difficult to keep from snacking on when you need them for a recipe. Once I had them measured out and tried one ... I had to re-measure a couple times. Oops.
They are the perfect addiction, er ... addition, to this recipe and I already know they'll be tops when I add them to maple syrup to drizzle over my souffle-like pumpkin pancakes. Heaven.
You can find California Walnuts
Now for the recipe! Usually I skin the walnuts by boiling them in water for several minutes and rinsing well, but I found the California Walnuts don't need to lose their skins as they are not bitter. You can skip skinning them all together if you are using these walnuts. Most walnut shrimp recipes contain honey, this one does not, hence the simple name of Walnut Shrimp.
1 1/2 cups walnut halves
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 pound large shrimp peeled and deveined
1 egg white
1/2 cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons peanut or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup mayonnaise (Japanese Kewpie is best for this, though regular mayo is yummy, too)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (I use the lesser amount, it's your choice)
1/2 pound sno peas - steamed, for serving
1. Boil walnuts in 3 cups of water for 5 minutes, drain well and rinse thoroughly to remove skins. Let cool and dry for several hours before moving on.
2. Combine water and sugar in a heavy pan and heat until sugar is melted. Add walnuts and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from sugar with a slotted spoon and place on a well-greased baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees, turning often, for 15-20 minutes or until golden in color. Cool completely.
3. Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Set aside.
4. Beat egg white until slightly frothy and add shrimp and cornstarch. Stir well to coat all shrimp.
5. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet and add shrimp. Cook, turning once or twice, until shrimp is pink and coating is crispy but not overly browned - about 5 minutes.
6. Remove from oil, drain and keep warm.
7. Combine mayo, condensed milk and lemon juice until smooth.
8. Add walnuts to shrimp in a large bowl and pour sauce over all. Toss to coat and serve over sno peas.