|Chinese monkey nuts|
Wow, everywhere is Christmas atmosphere already — actually a month ago, Christmas already stretched its first step. In the shops, even gym, Christmas songs are already calling people’s festival spirit; the big windows are already decorated with snow flakes, and the shops have started selling Christmas goods — Christmas pudding, Christmas pie, Christmas turkey and other meat, Christmas nuts and chocolate…
This is a secret — every time when I am in the middle of Christmas ‘space’, I feel very uneasy, but I cannot tell you why. This feeling and this experience with real Christmas started from my first Christmas in England.
In China, we do not really celebrate Christmas, as Chinese new year is our biggest celebration. But in recent years, Christmas Eve has become a very popular thing, especially among young people, and the shops would certainly take any excuse to boost their sells.
I used to go out with my friends on Eves, not much to do, we would just chatting and strolling down the street, then go for dinner, then go ice skating, then chatting… until almost next morning. So now if you ask me about my Christmas memories when I was in China, I could tell you all about friendship, and of course, back then, we thought we would all be together forever, never need to talk over a phone line whose other end is thousands of miles away.
But here, I feel uneasy, I guess it is because the festival and seeing all the families gather together reminds me of home, when we were all celebrating Chinese new years together. However, I think I am a lucky one — when I was in Manchester, I almost spent all my Christmas dinners with my dear friend Zhenya, she would cook an “almost” traditional English Christmas dinner (because I don’t eat turkey); and then a few years ago, I started spending Christmas with my in-laws to experience Spanish Christmas.
Anyway, my nostalgia aside, when I saw all different kinds of nuts in the shops, that really lifted up my spirit, especially the monkey nuts. It is not very easy to see monkey nuts during the year, I found it even not easy to get the uncooked red skinned peanuts normally. So without second thoughts, I picked up a couple of packages of monkey nuts.
Monkey nuts in China are a very popular thing, both in cooking and in snacking. It can be made savory or sweet. This recipe is probably one of the most common well known dish in China (at least in northeast China). My dad used to make it often. And when Chinese new year comes, he would make kilos and kilos of this monkey nuts and sunflower seeds (with shells). — It is one of the traditions to treat guests some nuts, fruits and cakes when they visit during Chinese new year.
This recipe is called five spices monkey nuts or peanuts, ‘Wu Xiang Hua Sheng‘ in Chinese. (In Chinese, ‘Hua Sheng’ refers to both monkey nuts and peanuts.) It is really simple to make, just take some time — boil the monkey nuts with seasonings for around 2 hours, that is it. Normal peanuts can be prepared in exactly the same way as well. After boiling, they can be eaten after peeling, or they can be put in the oven to ‘dry’ up, then you can get crispy nuts. Either way, the taste is savory and with rich five spices flavor.
—- I really like it, and it seems our guests too. This monkey nuts snack has always been very well received. :))
Here you go how I made it — very simple.
Monkey nuts (I used 400gm of it — a full pack from Tesco)
Salt, anise star, cinnamon stick, Sichuan peppercorn
Soak the monkey nuts with 2 (or a bit more) full tablespoons of salt, a few anise stars, around 2 cinnamon sticks, and a small pinch of Sichuan peppercorn in the water for a few hours. (My dad would suggest you even over night.)
After soaking, put the pot on the fire to boil for around 2 hours. Use full fire to bring the water to boil, then low fire keep on further boiling.
Rinse in cold water before serving.
— How simple! Hope you like it!