Walnut Drink

Photographer: Kurt

In January I made my second trip up to Qingdao in China’s Shandong province. It was a short trip but we packed in plenty of good food!  Over the course of the week, our gracious hosts took us to a variety of restaurants around the city, ordering up plate upon plate of local dishes.  I had amazing tofu, lots of delicious seafood and zingy, garlicky vegetable dishes.  I have to admit though, I did miss having a glass of wine with dinner.  I gave the local beer (Tsingtao Beer) a go which was great, but I’m not really a beer girl, so our hosts ordered a variety of juices for us to share.  They were all served warm, which was a bit of a revelation for me (I have microwaved the odd glass of orange juice since returning!).  Of all the flavours, the walnut ‘juice’ was the hot favourite.

Think of this as a sweet, nutty, slightly textural smoothie.  Served warm as autumn starts to bring a crisp tinge to the evening air, this is hearty, nourishing and well, to a Western palate a little odd (in a good way!).  You can sieve the drink if you don’t fancy having ‘bits’ in it, but we really enjoyed the texture of un-sieved drink.


2 cups raw walnuts
1 (400ml) can coconut milk
150g palm sugar, grated
2 cinnamon quills
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt
3 cups water


1. Blanch walnuts for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain well and spread out on an oven tray. Leave to dry while you preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Roast walnuts for 15 minutes, until coloured and fragrant. Leave to cool.
3. In a medium-sized saucepan, gently heat coconut milk, palm sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
4. Process walnuts and water until smooth.
5. Add walnut puree to coconut milk mixture, stir and heat through.
Serve hot.