I get all sorts of questions at the farmer's market, but this has been pretty much THE only question I've been asked the past three weeks: When's the asparagus man coming?? Yes, with a double question mark, that's the only way to express in writing, that look of anxiousness on their faces. I've never seen this country so excited over something, let alone a vegetable. People seem more interested in the start of the asparagus season than the Olympics, in fact, most seem to be a bit grumpy about the latter.
I love those sweet slender stalks too, but I love so many other vegetables I find it hard to muster that sort of obsessive delight over asparagus. I don't practice favouritism, and to me the tender stems of, say, the purple sprouting broccoli, are just as delicious (and not as expensive). People get a bit mad and sacrilegious over asparagus; I kind of just tossed them in a stirfry. I was doing a sort-of chinese cashew chicken, and just used the same sauce with asparagus; funnily (and not very often with my friends) the vegetable went before the meat-version.
serves 2-3 as a side
1 bunch of asparagus
handful of cashew nuts
1" ginger, minced
1 tsp oyster sauce (traditionally fermented with real oyster extract instead of oyster flavouring)
1 tsp good soy sauce (traditionally fermented without preservatives)
1 tsp cornflour+ 1 tsp water to make a slurry
1. Trim asparagus by snapping off the tough ends. They're expensive, so for goodness sake please don't throw, save for soup. Chop into (shuhan's) index-finger lengths. The early asparagus are tender and don't need to be blanched first.
2. Heat wok or pan over medium heat and dry-toast the cashews, stirring often till they're golden-brown and release their nutty aroma. Set aside.
3. Increase heat, add the oil, and when the oil is hot, add the ginger and garlic, stir-frying for about 5 seconds till aromatic. Add the asparagus, stir-fry for 1-2 min, or till almost tender and still bright green.
4. Pour in the sauce ingredients i.e. everything else, and cook until sauce thickens. Return the cashews to the pan, give a final toss to coat, and serve immediately with rice.
The star of the show here is most definitely the asparagus, but the nutty fragrance of the crunchy toasted cashews are perhaps just as yummy with the savoury sticky sauce to bind them all together. Anyway, the coveted spears of spring have come a bit later this year because of the weather, but I'm happy to say, if not apparent yet, they are finally here.