Fresh Walnuts: A Lovely New-found Chinese Indulgence

At the market near our house yesterday, my tutor bargained for a jin or so of walnuts.

You can find walnuts EVERYWHERE here, at every market.  I’d never really considered buying them though, assuming walnuts to be more of an ingredient than a snack in it’s own right.

Besides, these walnuts are all fresh and aren’t most of the walnuts we find in U.S. grocery stores dried or processed somehow?

But allow me to share my new found education with you:

fresh walnuts are delicious, albeit a bit complicated.  They have something in common with crabs in that way.

There’s a certain amount of work that must be put in, there’s a certain amount of skill and technique to be developed to pull off the papery light brown skin in satisfying-ly long sheets, leaving the creamy flesh beneath whole and intact.

This is your walnut with flaky skin still on-the way we usually eat walnuts in the States.

But my tutor let me in on a secret: if you peel off that skin you are left with a creamy, slightly sweet treat-with just enough bitterness at the end to keep it complex and interesting.

A walnut in the peeling process.

In traditional Chinese medicine, that which looks like a body part is good for that body part.  So walnuts, being so brainy looking, are thought to be good for your brain.  I don’t know if that’s true or not but I’ll use it as an excuse to spend way too much time peeling and munching on fresh walnuts all day.

Oh and another interesting Chinese medicine tidbit?  While we were making lunch and peeling walnuts, I showed my tutor some figs that I found when I stalked ran into a street vendor who appeared to be the only person in the entire city selling figs.

The first thing she said?  “Oh when a woman’s breast milk doesn’t come in after she has a baby, we make her a stew with figs and pig feet and it fixes everything.”

I’m less skeptical than you would imagine.  Though I have a healthy disdain for the Chinese medical system, the longer I’m here the more I realize that its’s not all absolute crap.  Chinese medicine is weird like that.  Some of it seems downright reckless, some of it seems to be surprisingly effective.

And as far as Chinese cures go, trotters with figs is pretty tame.  In fact, relatively-speaking, it sounds positively Continental-like something you might find at some nose-to-tail yuppie gastro-pub in D.C. or New York or London.

Which means, I suppose that this one goes firmly in the in the “never want to have to try it but good to know” category?

For now though, I think I’ll be sticking to the walnuts and their supposed brain-boosting qualities.  So look out for some super smarty-pants posts in the future. 🙂


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