The meal started off with Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Have you tried these? They are a bit of heaven on Earth. The best thing in the world. I have a great recipe for those, but you can find recipes for that all over the place. Nothing too rare or hard to figure out.
I got Stir-Fried Eggplant. A nice, cheap vegetarian dinner. Typically it’s my favorite thing on the menu. My friend got the Shrimp with Candied Walnuts. I read it on the menu….fried shrimp, candied walnuts, honeydew melon balls in a cream sauce. It did NOT sound like something I would care to eat. It sounded disgusting. (The picture doesn’t show the yellow-ish tint that the sauce had.)
Then my friend made me try a bite.
Boy was I wrong!
If you have not tried it, you NEED to run right now to your nearest PF Chang’s and try it. Or you can make it yourself.
I have spent over 10 hours on Google, trying to find a copy cat recipe for this dish. Yes 1-0, ten. Ten hours of my life, stalking a recipe. This is not uncommon for me. I tend to obsess. I obsess a lot.
I started with this recipe from All Recipes.
The third recipe I found was from Jolene Flores’s Blog. This was the biggest variation from the first recipe I found on All Recipes. Actually this was the ONLY OTHER recipe I found for it after 10 hours of looking.
This was the first recipe that would at least have the right coloring to the sauce. PF Chang’s sauce is a pale yellow. The turmeric in the recipe gives the correct color. However this sounded even sweeter than the second recipe I tried. Plus it would come out to less than half a cup of sauce in total.
2 Cloves Garlic, minced (there is NO garlic taste to the original dish…FAIL)
1 tsp turmeric (way too much FAIL but the right spice YAY)
1 tsp celery salt (way too much FAIL but an ok spice BETTER)
1 Tbs rice vinegar (cuts through the sweetness YAY)
2 Tbs mayo (you could taste a mayo base in the original dish, so this is required)
2 Tbs sweetened condensed milk (gives the right texture to the sauce YAY)
2 Tbs honey (isn’t the milk sweet enough? FAIL)
1 Tbs sugar (not sweet enough yet? FAIL)
I didn’t even attempt to whisk it all together in a bowl.
Instead, I set out modifying the three recipes until I got what I thing is the correct sauce but not unbearably sweet.
At least the third website had what I believe to be the spices right. That was a big thing for me. I didn’t want a white sauce on my shrimp, I wanted the pale yellow sauce that came with the original dish.
So here it is! The complete recipe. Enjoy!
The Walnuts (prepare ahead of time, up to 1 day in advance)
While this recipe is fantastic for the nuts, it is more time consuming and the results are nearly the same. If I was making candied nuts to eat, I’d certainly put in the extra effort. In the recipe, you cannot tell the difference once they are combined with the fried shrimp and the mysterious sauce.
1/2 C Water
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 C Walnuts
1 Tbs Unsalted Butter
Prepare a piece of parchment paper or lightly grease a baking sheet. Set aside.
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the walnuts, stirring constantly. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until thickened. Place the walnuts on the parchment paper or baking sheet. Separating them carefully. Allow them to cool fully.
An alternative to this is to simply toss the walnuts in a skillet with some white sugar and heat over medium-high heat, tossing constantly until the sugar is melted and caramelized.
1/2 C Coconut Milk
1/4 C Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 Tbs Mayonnaise, slightly heaping
1 1/2 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1/8 tsp Turmeric (maybe a dash more)
Dash Celery Salt (do NOT put in very much)
Whisk this together over a low heat until warm. You want a very pale yellow color, if the color is too pale, add a dash more turmeric. Remove from heat.
The flour mixture for the breading was rather tricky. Mochiko, a sweet rice flour should be used but isn’t always easy to find. Some suggest cornstarch. Don’t try that. YUCK! Some recipes said use a tempura batter, but that was too much breading for me. I made a simple batter with flour and corn starch. It worked out well.
1 lb Shrimp, de-veined and shelled
2 Egg Whites
3/4 C All-Purpose Flour
1/4 C Cornstarch
Oil for frying
Clean and dry shrimp well.
Whisk egg whites lightly in a bowl, add the shrimp and coat well.
Combine the flour and cornstarch. Dredge the shrimp.
Fry shrimp in hot oil, 3-5 minutes until the breading is golden and the shrimp are pink.
Fry only a few shrimp at a time, transferring to a paper towel to drain. Continue until all the shrimp are cooked.
The Finishing Touches
1/2 C Honeydew Melon Balls
1/2 C Cantaloupe Melon Balls
Toss the shrimp and honey dew and/or cantaloupe melon balls in the warm sauce. Top with candied walnuts. Serve over rice!