The technique of sugar-coating nuts and other foods is an ancient one in China. Particularly around New Year's, lotus root, lotus seed and watermelon rind are glazed and offered as sweet wishes for the coming year. Because these sweet, crisp walnuts are irresistible, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo make a generous batch. No one can eat just one, and extras keep very well—refrigerated or frozen—for a very long time.
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12 ounces walnut halves (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups peanut oil
How to Make It
In a medium saucepan, bring 4 to 5 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the walnuts and boil for 5 minutes to remove any bitterness. Drain, rinse under cold running water and drain again. Pour 5 cups of fresh cold water into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Again, add the nuts, cook for five minutes, drain, rinse and drain well. Let the nuts drain thoroughly on paper towels.
In a wok, bring 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 1 minute. Add the walnuts. Stir until the walnuts are coated with syrup and the remaining liquid in the wok is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove the walnuts and set them aside. Rinse the wok out with extremely hot water to remove the sugar. Dry it well.
Heat the oil in the wok over high until it begins to smoke, 350° to 375°. Add the walnuts and fry, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or chopsticks to keep the nuts separate, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain in a strainer and spread out on a plate to cool completely. Separate, if necessary, as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
The nuts can be made ahead and kept in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or frozen for 3 to 4 weeks. Let return to room temperature before serving.
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