Honey Walnut Shrimp (蜜汁合桃虾)

Learn how to make this classic Chinese banquet (and takeout) dish at home!

Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
45 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

If you’ve never tried honey walnut shrimp before, it’s like the perfect balance of sweet, savory, crunchy, creaminess. 

The Origins of Honey Walnut Shrimp

For our video, we got a lot of questions about the origins of honey walnut shrimp. It’s interesting because it doesn’t taste like old school Chinese cuisine, and also, just like General Tso’s Chicken, it’s extremely popular in the West yet fairly unheard of in the East. 

I couldn’t find anything definitive on the exact origins, but most likely, the dish was first invented in Hong Kong, and made its way to the US in the 80s and 90s. 

Interestingly, none of my younger friends in Hong Kong have even heard of this dish. BUT, digging deeper, when we asked the older generations of Hong Kong, they had tons of memories and experiences eating it. 

By one anecdote from my friend’s mom, growing up in Hong Kong in the 60s and 70s, she went to banquets all the time. Both walnuts and prawns were considered expensive and celebratory, but the walnut prawn dish was a more affordable seafood banquet item compared to dishes like abalone or steamed grouper. 

Fast forward to today, at least in the US, it’s extremely popular as both a Chinese banquet and takeout dish. It’s one of those rare recipes that’s guaranteed to wow your friends but is also extremely easy to make. 

Chinese Symbolism of Walnuts & Shrimp

As with many other Chinese dishes and ingredients, shrimp and walnuts both carry positive omens when served at big events and holidays.

The Cantonese word for "shrimp (虾 hā)" resembles the words for "laughing out loud (哈哈笑 hā hā siu)", so it's a symbol of having a lively time filled with laughter.

Similarly, the Cantonese word for "walnut (合桃 hahp tòuh)" is composed in part by the word "together (合 hahp)", so it's related to the phrase, "百年好合 baak nìhn hóu hahp". This is a common wish for newlyweds to have 100 great years of marriage.

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 20 pieces shrimp (

    size 26-30, deveined, de-shelled

    )
  • 0.25 tsp salt (

    for shrimp

    )
  • 3 oz walnuts
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • sesame seeds (

    optional garnish

    )
  • Sugar Syrup (optional alternative to Honey)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Sauce
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Batter
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.50 egg
  • 7 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp corn oil

On Buying Shrimp

It's easiest to buy shrimp that are already peeled and deveined. My dad likes shrimp that are 26/30 in size, and prefers shrimp from South America.

This isn’t always an option, but if you’re looking to buy sustainably sourced shrimp, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch recommends that you avoid shrimp from places like Argentina, China, India.

If you do end up buying shrimp from those areas, it's totally fine (my parents do), but Seafood Watch notes that the shrimp are sourced with less sustainable methods.

To learn more, check out the link:

https://www.seafoodwatch.org/recommendations/search?query=%3Afree%3Bshrimp%7Cspecies

On Oils & Smoke Points

You should generally avoid olive oil for anything that involves higher heat. 

This is because olive oil has what’s called a lower smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil stops shimmering or rippling and starts smoking. 

Smoking oil isn’t always a problem and sometimes even desired for getting that perfect “Wok Hei” in your stir fry, but it’s a sign that the oil is breaking down, which can release burnt or bitter flavors or even harmful free radicals.

Here’s a chart that highlights the smoke points of a few of the most common cooking oils. 

There are a few other factors that go into selecting oils like whether they’re neutral or flavored, refined or unrefined. 

Most cooking oil is created by extracting and compressing seeds and nuts, and oils that are “unrefined”, “raw”, or “virgin” are usually bottled almost immediately. They generally have more nutrients but a lower smoke point and shorter shelf life. Refined oils go through more processing for a higher smoke point, longer shelf life, and a more neutral flavor.

It’s not totally true that you should avoid olive oil, since you can buy either refined or unrefined varieties. But for simplicity’s sake, for frying, you generally want to use neutral, refined oils like vegetable oil, refined olive oil, or corn oil. 

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Other Supplies + Tools

You'll need a good wok, which provides a ton of versatility for the classic Chinese cooking methods: steaming, stir frying, deep frying, and etc.

You may want an instant read thermometer to help you get precise with how you're deep frying. Here are two great options:

Assuming you're starting with peeled, deveined shrimp (20 pieces) (which is what my dad recommends), cut each shrimp in half lengthwise. This will help result in a more beautiful, crunchy fry.

In a bowl, mix salt (0.25 tsp) with the shrimp.

In a bowl, we'll mix mayonnaise (4 tbsp), sweetened condensed milk (3 tbsp), and lemon juice (2 tsp).

Fun fact: During the American Civil War, condensed milk was one of the best field rations for soldiers, since it was so compact and rich in calories. After the war, condensed milk skyrocketed in popularity and became a mainstream product

In a bowl, we'll beat our egg(s) (0.50).

In another bowl, we'll mix all purpose flour (4 tbsp), cornstarch (2 tbsp), baking powder (2 tsp), corn oil (2 tsp), water (7 tbsp)​, and the portion of eggs (0.50) that we need.

We'll mix until the consistency is smooth. You may need to add dashes of water to get it to the consistency that you want.

If you don't have honey, or don't want to use honey for whatever reason, you can go with the restaurant route.

Add sugar (3 tbsp) and water (2 tbsp) to a bowl and stir. Then, we'll be microwaving it several times:

  • 60 seconds
  • 30 seconds
  • 30 seconds

Between each round of microwaving, we'll be stirring the sugar.

Once we're done and the sugar has cooled and hardened into a syrup consistency, we're done.

My dad said restaurants make large batches of this in a wok (since honey is generally more expensive.)

We'll fill a pan or wok with enough oil to submerge the walnuts, and heat it to around 300F.

Then, we'll fry our walnuts (3 oz)​ twice, once to cook them, a second time to make them crunchier.

  • #1 - Fry for 3-4 minutes. Scoop the walnuts out with a strainer ladle, and let the oil reheat to 300F.
  • #2 - Mix the walnuts with the honey (2 tbsp) (or sugar syrup). Fry for about 2 minutes. Scoop out the walnuts.

If you can, you'll want to monitor the temperature of the oil. We don't want to let the walnuts cook in oil that's too hot, otherwise they'll burn.

Read before you start frying shrimp

Ideally, for frying the shrimp, you'll want to use another pan or wok, or clean the pan/wok you were using before frying.

If you stick with the same container, there will be some charred honey/sugar at the bottom, which will stick onto the shrimp and result in more muddied look after frying.

If you're using a second pan/wok, carefully pour some of the oil from the first pan/wok into the second one, being sure not to let any of the honey/sugar pour in.

How to tell if the oil is hot enough

When you drop the batter into the oil, if it floats immediately, then the oil is hot enough. If the batter instantly turns golden brown, the oil is actually too hot. 

Another way to monitor the temperature is with an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t have one, here are two great options:

Start frying shrimp, #1 (cooking)

  • While we wait for the oil to heat to 350F, we'll mix the batter well. Then, we'll mix the shrimp with the batter.
  • Once the oil is hot enough, one by one, carefully set the shrimp into the wok.
  • Let the shrimp fry for about 2-3 minutes, until the batter turns a beautiful golden brown.
  • Depending on the amount of shrimp you have, you can start transferring out the shrimp that went in first, as the later ones continue to cook.

Start frying shrimp, #2 (crunch)

  • This time, the oil should be hotter, around 375-400F.
  • Once the oil is hot enough, we'll carefully transfer the shrimp in to the oil.
  • Let the shrimp cook for about 60-90 seconds, and transfer them out of the wok into a bowl

Mix and coat the shrimp with the sauce from earlier, and add the candied walnuts and sesame seeds.

Call the family over! Time to eat :)

Saving the crunch

It's best to eat this immediately or ASAP.

If you're preparing this as a part of a larger, multi-course meal, you'll want to mix in the sauce right before you're about to eat. Over time, the sauce will seep into the crunchy batter, which will reduce some of the amazing crunchiness.

Summary

Honey Walnut Shrimp (蜜汁合桃虾)
Learn how to make this classic Chinese banquet (and takeout) dish at home!
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 45 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 20 pieces shrimp (

    size 26-30, deveined, de-shelled

    )
  • 0.25 tsp salt (

    for shrimp

    )
  • 3 oz walnuts
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • sesame seeds (

    optional garnish

    )
  • Sugar Syrup (optional alternative to Honey)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Sauce
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • Batter
  • 4 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.50 egg
  • 7 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp corn oil
Step 1 - Prepare shrimp↑ Jump to details

Assuming you're starting with peeled, deveined shrimp (20 pieces) (which is what my dad recommends), cut each shrimp in half lengthwise. This will help result in a more beautiful, crunchy fry.

In a bowl, mix salt (0.25 tsp) with the shrimp.

Step 2 - Prepare sauce↑ Jump to details

In a bowl, we'll mix mayonnaise (4 tbsp), sweetened condensed milk (3 tbsp), and lemon juice (2 tsp).

Fun fact: During the American Civil War, condensed milk was one of the best field rations for soldiers, since it was so compact and rich in calories. After the war, condensed milk skyrocketed in popularity and became a mainstream product

Step 3 - Prepare batter↑ Jump to details

In a bowl, we'll beat our egg(s) (0.50).

In another bowl, we'll mix all purpose flour (4 tbsp), cornstarch (2 tbsp), baking powder (2 tsp), corn oil (2 tsp), water (7 tbsp)​, and the portion of eggs (0.50) that we need.

We'll mix until the consistency is smooth. You may need to add dashes of water to get it to the consistency that you want.

Step 4 - Prepare sugar syrup (optional)↑ Jump to details

If you don't have honey, or don't want to use honey for whatever reason, you can go with the restaurant route.

Add sugar (3 tbsp) and water (2 tbsp) to a bowl and stir. Then, we'll be microwaving it several times:

  • 60 seconds
  • 30 seconds
  • 30 seconds

Between each round of microwaving, we'll be stirring the sugar.

Once we're done and the sugar has cooled and hardened into a syrup consistency, we're done.

My dad said restaurants make large batches of this in a wok (since honey is generally more expensive.)

Step 5 - Heat oil, fry walnuts↑ Jump to details

We'll fill a pan or wok with enough oil to submerge the walnuts, and heat it to around 300F.

Then, we'll fry our walnuts (3 oz)​ twice, once to cook them, a second time to make them crunchier.

  • #1 - Fry for 3-4 minutes. Scoop the walnuts out with a strainer ladle, and let the oil reheat to 300F.
  • #2 - Mix the walnuts with the honey (2 tbsp) (or sugar syrup). Fry for about 2 minutes. Scoop out the walnuts.

If you can, you'll want to monitor the temperature of the oil. We don't want to let the walnuts cook in oil that's too hot, otherwise they'll burn.

Step 6 - Heat oil, fry shrimp↑ Jump to details

Read before you start frying shrimp

Ideally, for frying the shrimp, you'll want to use another pan or wok, or clean the pan/wok you were using before frying.

If you stick with the same container, there will be some charred honey/sugar at the bottom, which will stick onto the shrimp and result in more muddied look after frying.

If you're using a second pan/wok, carefully pour some of the oil from the first pan/wok into the second one, being sure not to let any of the honey/sugar pour in.

How to tell if the oil is hot enough

When you drop the batter into the oil, if it floats immediately, then the oil is hot enough. If the batter instantly turns golden brown, the oil is actually too hot. 

Another way to monitor the temperature is with an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t have one, here are two great options:

Start frying shrimp, #1 (cooking)

  • While we wait for the oil to heat to 350F, we'll mix the batter well. Then, we'll mix the shrimp with the batter.
  • Once the oil is hot enough, one by one, carefully set the shrimp into the wok.
  • Let the shrimp fry for about 2-3 minutes, until the batter turns a beautiful golden brown.
  • Depending on the amount of shrimp you have, you can start transferring out the shrimp that went in first, as the later ones continue to cook.

Start frying shrimp, #2 (crunch)

  • This time, the oil should be hotter, around 375-400F.
  • Once the oil is hot enough, we'll carefully transfer the shrimp in to the oil.
  • Let the shrimp cook for about 60-90 seconds, and transfer them out of the wok into a bowl
Step 7 - Plate and garnish↑ Jump to details

Mix and coat the shrimp with the sauce from earlier, and add the candied walnuts and sesame seeds.

Call the family over! Time to eat :)

Saving the crunch

It's best to eat this immediately or ASAP.

If you're preparing this as a part of a larger, multi-course meal, you'll want to mix in the sauce right before you're about to eat. Over time, the sauce will seep into the crunchy batter, which will reduce some of the amazing crunchiness.

Step 8 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 9 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.