$5 Friday: Japanese style asparagus

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To me the start of spring is all about green: new green leaves on the weeping willows, green shoots on trees in my garden, green weeds in my garden (!) and lots of green in my diet. Including new season asparagus.

Panko asparagus with two Asian dipping sauces
Panko asparagus with two Asian dipping sauces

Green foods are rich in antioxidants.  Green is the colour of the heart chakra, and perhaps unsurprisingly asparagus is great for ensuring good health of your heart.  And it has anti-aging properties, and it helps your skin look good, and it helps regulate blood sugar.  Asparagus is also a natural diuretic and can help you cleanse and detoxify your body, which Green vegetables can also help to detoxify your body, which is great after months of heavy winter comfort food (not that I was complaining about eating so much at the time).

I love eating asparagus in so many ways. It is a staple in quiches, salads, risottos and on barbecues.  And asparagus is not just a ‘Western’ food; it is popular in Asian cooking as well.  A friend at work shared with me how her Korean mother fried asparagus in panko breadcrumbs.  It sounded delicious, and it is truly is.  Once you try it served this way you will be hooked.  Panko are Japanese breadcrumbs.  Substitute homemade soft white breadcrumbs.

Panko bread crumbs
Panko bread crumbs

This recipe is more of an elegant entree or a potluck contribution than a main meal.  But serve it with rice and miso soup if you would like to make it more substantial.

I have served it here with two dipping sauces.  Choose which one or both you like.  I found I liked both. I also made around a cup of the mayonnaise  as I have found that for some obscure reason it works best with two yolks.  Leftovers are great with egg and lettuce sandwiches, or brown bread wrapped around soft-cooked asparagus.  But if you really want an economical version, just serve the panko-fried asparagus with a soy/vinegar dipping sauce.

Japanese mayonnaise

I find it easy to make this with a wire whisk, as it allows you to incorporate the ingredients bit by bit. In the unlikely event that it curdles, beat a separate egg yolk in and add it in small amounts of the yolk until it reaches the desired consistency. Similarly, if the mixture is too thin add more oil.  Japanese style mayonnaise, which is slightly sweeter and creamier partly because it uses rice vinegar.  This recipe uses much more than you will need, so you will likely have leftovers for sandwiches during the week.

Ingredients

2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Japanese-style rice vinegar
1 cup canola oil
Generous pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Method

  1. Place the egg yolks into a small bowl. Using a wire whisk, gradually beat the egg yolks and gradually incorporate the rice vinegar.
    Frothy egg yolks
    Beat the egg yolks until frothy

    Making mayonnaise
    The egg yolks will thicken once you add the oil
  2. When incorporated, add the salt and sugar and then gradually add the oil until incorporated.

    A jar of homemade Japanese mayonnaise
    A jar of homemade Japanese mayonnaise

Japanese sesame sauce

Ingredients

1/3 cup roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine (I use Shaoxing, but mirin is best or else sherry)
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Japanese sesame dipping sauce
Japanese dipping sauce – this will make more than you will need, so save it and toss it through freshly cooked green beans or boiled asparagus

Method

  1. Put the sesame seeds into a heavy cast-iron fry pan and roast until almost brown and fragrant.
  2. Remove from heat, and place in a mortar. In Japan, they have a special ceramic bowl for this job that has grooves around the sides.  A mortar and pestle does the job almost as well.  Grind until fragrant.

    Mortar and pestle
    Mortar and pestle for grinding the sesame seeds
  3. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar, and shake to combine.

Panko fried asparagus

Ingredients

1/2 cup plain flour
1 bunch asparagus
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup or more of panko breadcrumbs
Oil for frying

Method

  1. Trim the ends off the asparagus.
  2. Dip the asparagus into the plain flour.  Then dip into a mixture of the egg white, water & salt.  Finally, press the asparagus into the panko mixture.
  3. Fry immediately in batches in hot oil until the panko is golden brown.

    Fried asparagus
    Panko-fried asparagus

Cost:

1 bunch of asparagus: $1.99
Eggs:  44c
Flour: 10c
Panko:  40c
Oil:  $1.00
Sugar: 10c
Sesame seeds: 25c
Soy sauce: 10c
Rice wine: 10c

Total $4.48 (note: although this is more costly than some other meals, you will save on the homemade mayonnaise that can be reused for school lunches and other meals)

Asparagus with two dipping sauces
An elegant entree of panko-fried asparagus with two dipping sauces
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