Recipe courtesy of Vivian Chan for Food Network Kitchen

Honey Walnut Shrimp

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Growing up I always saw honey walnut shrimp at Chinese wedding banquets but was never able to eat them due to my nut allergy. Luckily I outgrew the allergy in my early 20s and, consumed with curiosity for this iconic dish, it’s one of the first recipes I wanted my mom to share with me. It’s considered a special-occasion dish because of the technique and the size of the prawns used. And although the ingredients may seem simple, each component of the dish has a secret. For the walnuts, blanching them before frying is a classic technique Chinese restaurants use; it makes the nut’s interior feel light and tender as a contrast to the crunchy candied exterior. For the sauce, the secret is the sweet-tart flavor of pineapple juice; without it the sauce could feel heavy from the mayonnaise and sweetened condensed milk. Last but not least, butterflying the shrimp makes them appear larger, giving the dish the impressive look it’s known for at Chinese banquets, and coating them in cornstarch creates a light and crisp exterior. I’ve made this dish numerous times for my family. My mom is glad that she no longer needs to wait for a wedding to enjoy it!
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 45 min
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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Ingredients

Directions

Special equipment:
a deep-fry thermometer
  1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Add the walnuts and bring the water back to a full boil. Boil for 3 minutes. Strain the nuts into a colander and shake off excess water. Transfer the blanched pieces to a paper towel–lined plate in an even layer and let them sit until dry to touch, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the mayonnaise, condensed milk, pineapple juice, honey, vinegar and a pinch of salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. 
  3. Butterfly the shrimp by laying one flat on a cutting board and using a paring knife to slit them down the back from top to tail, cutting deeply but not all the way through. Press down to open the split shrimp up a bit. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate and repeat with remaining shrimp. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set aside.
  4. Rinse out the saucepan the walnuts blanched in and fill it halfway with water. Season the water generously with salt as you would pasta water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the broccoli and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Strain into a colander and shake off excess water. Make a ring using the florets on a serving platter and tuck the stem pieces under the florets. Set aside.
  5. Fill a wok or Dutch oven with about 2 to 3 inches of canola oil. Place over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer.
  6. While the oil is heating up, place 1/3 cup water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir until dissolved. Set aside.
  7. Once the oil reaches 350 degrees F, reduce heat to medium and add the blanched walnuts. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes (don’t let them become dark or they will be bitter). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on another paper towel–lined plate and turn the heat off. Sprinkle the walnuts lightly with salt.
  8. Place a wire rack over a sheet pan. Add the fried walnut pieces to the sugar syrup in the saucepan and stir to coat. Transfer the walnuts with a slotted spoon to the rack and let them dry slightly and set, about 5 minutes.
  9. Return the oil to medium-high heat and bring back to 350 degrees F. Place the shrimp in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with cornstarch and toss until each shrimp is fully coated. Shake off any excess cornstarch.
  10. Once the oil is hot, add the shrimp (work in two batches if necessary) and fry until they are orangish-pink and the cornstarch coating is almost translucent, about 3 minutes. (For smaller shrimp, see Cook’s Note for cooking times.) When cooked through, the shrimp will float to the surface and the bubbling will begin to subside. Transfer the fried shrimp with a slotted spoon into the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture. Toss until fully coated.
  11. Place the shrimp in the center of the platter in the broccoli ring. Drizzle any additional sauce over the broccoli florets and shrimp. Scatter candied walnuts around the sides of the plate and on top of the shrimp and broccoli. Serve immediately.

Cook’s Note

If using shrimp smaller than U 16-20, the cooking time and amount of cornstarch should be adjusted. For U 21-25 shrimp, coat with a scant 1/3 cup cornstarch and fry for 2 to 3 minutes. For U 31-40 shrimp, coat with a heaping 1/3 cup cornstarch and fry for 1 to 2 minutes.

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