Asparagus from a wok, stir fried with chillies, garlic and ginger – that vegetable can take the heat!
Spicy asparagus? Absolutely!
Who says asparagus should only ever be steamed or gently boiled? It can be tossed into hot oil in a wok and come out wonderful after that treatment.
In fact asparagus does not have to be treated reverentially, seasoned subtly and only subjected to gently sautéing in butter. Another fallacy is that it takes only gentle garnishes of hollandaise sauce or egg yolks.
This recipe is asparagus grown-up style: none of that eggs and soldiers nonsense. And what do you know? It can stand the heat very well.
The recipe comes from NY Times Cooking though I modified the heat a bit as I couldn’t start to imagine what it would be like with twice as many chilies in, as per the original.
Asparagus works very well but outside the season you might like to apply this treatment to tenderstem broccoli – which is bland enough to use some heat.
The dish is normally served as a side but it can be a great starter or even a main if served on a bed of plain rice.
How to handle asparagus?
Of course, I am not talking here about the spears flown in from the darkest Peru in the middle of winter. If you appreciate asparagus, you only eat them once a year for about six weeks. That’s how short asparagus season is in the UK and France, which is all I know about, asparagus crops-wise.
Those precious shoots need to be handled with respect.
The fresher the better, obviously, and test it by gently trying to bend a stem. Bendy-Wendy = picked a good few days ago and it probably means you’re in a supermarket. Still tasty, but possibly in a soup or a risotto.
Farm shops and the like are a better source for firm, stiff, rigid and hard ones (innuendo planned and begging to be forgiven).
Unless picked literally on the same day, the ends will be a little woody so snap them off and reserve for stock/risotto.
Some think the stems should be peeled lightly but don’t believe them – they mean for you to waste some of that expensive deliciousness.
Incidentally, it’s worth noting that new asparagus has fat, thick stems and towards the end of the season they get thinner and spindly. That’s not what you would have thought, eh? I didn’t until I discovered the fact.
How to spice up asparagus?
The combo of heat in this dish is marvellous, and just right. The main source of heat is the dried birds eye chillies and they are pungent all right. Take care when they hit the wok: the fumes might seriously bowl you over.
There is also a jalapeno or serrano chilli added in to the dish but that’s for flavour not heat, so use a mild one.
Then there’s the garlic, ginger and lime which together with chillies form the tastiest flavour known to man. Chopped coriander, spring onions and sesame seeds are the garnish or the icing on this spicy cake.
It all cooks in no time at all, starting with the hit of heat from the dried chillies which start the fire. Asparagus stems go in next, with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, plus the aromatics: ginger, garlic, lime zest and fresh chillies.
A stir and a fry, a minute or less and it’s ready to be plated up, showered with spring onions, coriander and sesame in two guises: seeds and oil.
More asparagus recipes
Scallop and asparagus stir fry. Use frozen queen scallops for this dish, they will come into their own anyway against the background of perfectly cooked aubergines and asparagus.
Asparagus are best cooked simply and quickly, to save their nutrients. This is an easy recipe for asparagus cooked in butter with a little grated Parmesan.
Asparagus wrapped in filo pastry is a glorious vegetarian snack or appetiser. Filo, the paper-thin, super-crunchy Middle Eastern pastry, buttered, layered and baked till golden is lovely on its own. And when it hides Parmesan-flavoured, fresh asparagus spears inside, it’s irresistible.
More vegetable stir fry recipes
Stir-fried cucumbers Asian style, with ginger, garlic and a pinch of chilli. Spicy but also refreshing which is logical as cukes are 96% water.
Stir fried ginger vegetables: mixed vegetable stir-fry with ginger and sesame. Seasoned with oyster sauce, any vegetables can be used here including carrots, peppers, courgettes and mushrooms, or Chinese greens.
Yu xiang aubergine, a Sichuan stir fry in fiery sauce. With added crunch of almonds and tartness of cranberries, it’s the best aubergine dish ever.