It's the mid-June, meaning asparagus season is coming to a close. I have been seeing less and less of my favorite stalky vegetable at the markets, and what's left tends to be expensive. So I thought I would celebrate the end of the season with a recipe for Shandong-style asparagus. Make this while you still can!
It's true that asparagus isn't used much in Chinese food. I don't recall ever having it at the dinner table growing up, nor at restaurants in Boston's Chinatown. Here in Beijing, whenever asparagus appears on menus it is qingchao-ed (请炒-ed), or lightly stir-fried, with other vegetables.
Shandong province is China's center for asparagus production, so it's no surprise Shandongers showcase the asparagus practically au naturel. And since the dish eaten at room temperature, it makes a perfect appetizer for picnics, grilling dinners, or any other situation when you're wiping the sweat from your brows and spritzing water on your face every 2 minutes to keep cool.
Serves 2 to 4 as an appetizer
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- A few drops chilli oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted white sesame seeds
- In a pot of boiling water, blanch the asparagus until just tender (it should still have a snap), about 90 seconds. Quickly plunge asparagus into a large bowl of ice water. Let cool for a few minutes, then drain and transfer onto paper towels to dry.
- In medium-sized bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili oil. Add asparagus and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving dish, and sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.
Adapted from Saveur.