In the spirit of DIY deliciousness, why not start off the Chinese New Year with something sweet and savory? Peking Walnuts are an impressive affair – the glossy walnuts appear lacquered, but it’s really just a simple sugar coating that’s been dunked in a vat of hot vegetable oil. While the walnuts cook, the sugar caramelizes onto the crust and takes on a reddish hue – just like Peking Duck.
The red color makes Peking Walnuts lucky.
What’s the story with the color red and Chinese New Year?
Legend has it that a Chinese beast called Nian lives under the sea and mountains. He is afraid of the color red. Chinese families use lots of red during the New Year to scare him away.Today, red signifies both luck and joy in Chinese culture.
How to make Peking Walnuts (and impress all your friends):
Grab a bunch of walnuts.
Boil them until their skins fall off.
Toss with sugar and let dry for a couple of hours in a sunny spot (or overnight).
Meanwhile, go watch some fireworks!
When you return, deep fry the walnuts until caramelized and sticky!
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and let cool completely.
Chinese Candy Box
If you want to amp up the cuteness, add Peking Walnuts to a Chinese Candy Box. This red and black box has 6-8 compartments to hold candy, dried fruits, or nuts and seeds. Here’s an example:
Note: Peking walnuts are a great gift idea unless, like me, you have a husband that eats them all in one sitting, in which case you may want to make a double batch. Ahem.
Enjoy with luck and …
… love in your heart.
Makes 3 cups
3 cups walnuts
1 cup sugar
2 cups vegetable or peanut oil
Add to boiling water and cook about 8 minutes, or until pale and softened (most of the skin will have come off).
Dry well with towels. Toss completely with sugar on a cookie sheet and let dry in a warm sunny spot for about 2 1/2 hours. The sugar will cling to the seemingly dry walnuts since there will be traces of moisture. You may want to turn once or twice early on to make sure they’re coated well. The walnut and sugar mixture is done drying when the sugar hardens into a crust around the walnuts (it’ll be hard to the touch).
Add oil to a wok or small pot and heat to 350F. Add the walnuts in batches and fry until golden brown – 1-2 minutes (I like them best after 1 minute). Use a slotted spoon or similar to remove. Place on a clean baking sheet and spread apart with the spoon. Sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container for a couple of weeks.