This recipe is part of Crispianity: a column devoted to all foods crispy and crunchy, two of the most underappreciated attributes of a great dish. Author Adeena Sussman is a food writer and recipe developer, pairing here with her photographer friend Evan Sung. Sussman’s most recent cookbook, coauthored with Lee Brian Schrager, is Fried and True: More Than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides.
As a kosher family in the 1970s-era San Francisco Bay Area, dining options were limited for the Sussmans, but we always had Vegi Food. A vegan Buddhist Chinese restaurant in the Outer Sunset neighborhood, Vegi Food was my temple, the finest eating establishment there was, my Michelin three-star long before I knew that constellation even existed. The place was tiny, with no more than 10 tables, the daily special scrawled with magic markers on construction paper, tiny strands of Christmas lights dangling every month of the year. And the food — silky eggplant with fresh peas, mu shu vegetables with hoisin and those impossibly thin pancakes, shatteringly crunchy vegetable pot stickers — was incredibly delicious. Of all the dishes my sister Sharon and I looked forward to, the crispy sweet-and-sour walnuts was our hands-down favorite: fried walnut halves sautéed with fresh vegetables in an orangey glaze with a hint of spice.
The first step is deep-frying the walnuts, which keeps them crispy during sautéing. I experimented with all sorts of batters and breadings, but the power of a simple fry is undeniable. Pro tip: Fry a few extra nuts for snacking.
- 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 6 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias, whites and greens kept separate
- 2 strips orange or tangerine peel
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 2 whole dried chilies
- 1 large head broccoli, cut into florets (about 4 cups)
- 3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 large red bell pepper, sliced into 2-inch sticks
- 1/4 cup chicken broth or water
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 oranges, supremed (about 2/3 cup segments)
- Cooked rice, for serving
- In a small saucepan, heat the 2 cups of oil to 350°F. Fry the walnuts until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the nuts to a paper towel to drain.
- In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey and cornstarch and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil on high heat. Add the scallion whites, citrus peel, ginger, garlic and chilies and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the broccoli, carrots, peppers, and broth and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
- Give the reserved sauce a stir, then add it to the skillet and cook, stirring, until a shiny glaze forms. Stir in the sesame oil and remove from the heat. Gently stir in the orange segments and fried walnuts.
- Divide among four bowls and garnish with the scallion greens. Serve with rice.
Keep the skillet out and try some more stir-fry recipes from Food Republic: