Peanut sesame brittle, Chinese-style
As we approached this guy from far away, I thought he was making rice crispy treats. But we soon hit a wall of aromas that included the sugar, peanuts and sesame at their purest– and my ideas of a chewy rice crispy treat were quick to be dispelled. But I was not disappointed for long, as I immediately recognized the ‘candy’ that he had displayed in front of him as the Chinese version of peanut brittle.
With a small portable range set up in the back corner of his stall, among sacks of white sugar (not quite the safest setup, I noted), I watched as Brittle Man stirred a piping-hot wok full of sugar syrup with a flat wooden paddle. Without any other tools– no thermometer, no measuring utensils, no fancy stirring gadgets– he mixed peanuts and sesame seeds in with the sugar until a firm-yet-malleable consistency formed. Transferring his piping hot concoction to a flat table, he whipped out two massive blunt cleavers and pushed the peanut-sesame mixture back and forth, folding it over itself again and again. As the stuff began to cool, Brittle Man patted and formed it into a large thin sheet, finally scoring the surface lightly with thin lines.
We purchased a small Ziploc full of brittle for a snack– it tasted like peanuts and sesame and sugar-precisely what I expected. The thinly-scored brittle surface allowed us to easily break off thin pieces, and we munched on the square rods of brittle as if they were pretzel sticks.