Around Chinese New Year every year, my grandma used to buy a big plastic tray of togetherness with all the traditional Chinese sweets and candies that would bring in an auspicious year. While I always thought most of them were chalky and sickly sweet, occasionally, I did enjoy the candied coconut meat strips, as well as the red-and-gold-foiled candies that had a homey sweet flavor. One thing that we also had around Chinese New Year was a store-bought peanut-sesame candy, similar to peanut brittle. I see it all the time being sold around Lunar New Year in Chinatown today: It was always cut into long, thin, flat rectangles and individually wrapped. This was one Lunar New Year sweet I remembered eating and loving. The nuttiness paired with the slight sweetness from the caramelized sugar base was really addictive. Sometimes, the candy was made of just sesame seeds, while other times, it had a combination of peanuts and sesame seeds. I’m sure it’s one reason I had so many cavities at my first dentist appointment.
I was doing some research for my upcoming Lunar New Year lunch when I went to the Woks of Life website, one of my go-to sites for authentic Chinese recipes, and the feature recipe was for this exact candy – peanut sesame candy! I was floored. People actually MAKE this regularly around Lunar New Year? It only takes THREE ingredients? I was sold!
But me being me, I tweaked the recipe a bit, and I ended up mashing three different ones into the one I ended up using yesterday. And… it was a bit of a disaster. The rock sugar took ages to melt fully. The recipe said it would take only five minutes. I was standing there, stirring the pan for at least 40 minutes. And by the time the rock candy fully did melt, it seemed like the sugar had burnt a little. When I finally poured the candy mixture onto my silicone mat to roll out, it was a huge, sticky mess. I barely had enough time to roll it flat and cut it before it started hardening. I was not happy with the result. While the toastiness of the sesame seeds and peanuts came through well, Chris admitted that the candy had a slightly burnt aftertaste. This was just take 1.
Maybe, just maybe I should use regular granulated sugar and forgo the traditional rock sugar. That was a huge blocker in getting this recipe correct, as I spent too much time trying to melt the “rocks.” I will try again in the next week and see if I can perfect it so that I can have a nice, sweet Lunar New Year bowl of sweets to share next Saturday.