Crispy Walnut Prawns Recipe
Yields: 6 servings
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, freshly grated
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 1/4 pounds raw large shrimp
1/3 cup corn starch (or tapioca starch)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
3 cups peanut oil (or regular vegetable oil), for deep frying, as needed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup whole walnuts, halved
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
4 sprigs cilantro
Preparing the shrimp
Remove and discard the head of the shrimp if it's still attached. Carefully shell and devein the black part of the shrimp using a small sharp knife. Make sure to remove the tip of the tail (the shell that covers the tail) as well; this part is very delicate. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water and pat dry using a paper towel. There should be as little water as possible. Repeat the same procedure for each shrimp. These steps are tedious but essential for good results. On a large platter, combine the shrimp, freshly grated ginger and garlic. Chill in the refrigerator for about an hour. Pat dry one more time with paper towels.
For the candied walnuts
To make the syrup, dissolve the granulated sugar with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring the syrup to a full boil, then lower the heat to medium-low until the caramel becomes golden brown (about 3 minutes). As soon as the caramel is the right golden brown color, add 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Stir well.
How to toast the walnuts
Spread the nuts onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper (or a silicone mat). Place the tray in a preheated oven at 170°F. Toast the walnuts for about 15 minutes. Let the nuts cool completely. Rub the nuts between your hands; the skin should come off easily. You could roast the nuts at a higher temperature (325°F) for a shorter cooking time but you'll might risk breaking healthy fats and lose all the nutrients of the nuts. Stir the toasted nuts into the caramel mixture, then pour over a wire mesh cooling rack, separating the nuts as much as you can, I like to use the prongs (tines) of a fork.
Layer a cooling rack, previously lined with paper towels if you like, on top of a baking sheet (for easy clean-up of the drained oil).
In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, condensed milk, honey and rice vinegar. Stir well. Set aside. In a large Dutch oven (or any regular deep-fryer), heat the oil for about 2 minutes over high heat. There should be at least a 2-inch-high level of oil. Wait until the oil is slightly bubbly (not too hot).
Season the shrimp with salt and white pepper. Sprinkle some corn starch using a fine mesh strainer and coat both sides of each shrimp. Shake off the excess corn starch.
The key to good, crispy, yet moist shrimp is to get little bubbles when the shrimp is in contact with the oil. Don't overheat the oil (see tips), otherwise the shrimp will get too golden and chewy and the inside will still be raw. Just stick to the slightly jumping bubbles. Place the shrimp one piece at a time, making sure the shrimp fritters don't touch each other. Fry in batches. Lower the heat to medium. Deep fry for 2-3 minutes per batch until golden. Use a splatter screen to prevent the oil from jumping everywhere . Flip each piece using a spider skimmer and cook for about a minute until golden on both sides.
Remove each shrimp, draining as much oil as possible and transfer them on the cooling rack. Season with salt and immediately transfer to the bowl of sweetened mayonnaise. Continue with the remaining shrimp.
Place the honeyed shrimp onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and top with the candied walnuts. Sprinkle the chopped Cilantro over the top, tastes great with a good jasmine rice.
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