That wooden spoon is my second most prized possession. It's 19.5" long and perfect for stir-frying. I scored it on our trip to Italy.
I really don’t need a reason to bust out the wok. As it is, I use it easily 3 times a week. But when it’s for a special event, like dinner guests, a potluck or Weekend Wokking, I get particularly excited. What’s Weekend Wokking, you ask? It’s a blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks. The idea is to come up with a dish around a (seasonal) theme ingredient. This month’s ingredient is asparagus, so if you’ve got an asparagus recipe you know we’ll love, then do share! Wandering Chopsticks is the host this month, so shoot her an email with your entry and she’ll include you in the round-up. But you better hurry, deadline’s this Sunday! If you can't make the deadline but want to participate in the future, check out the host list. And don’t let the fact that you don’t have a wok stop you. It’s not a requirement. You just have to feature the theme ingredient in your dish.
Asparagus...such a versatile vegetable. When it’s in season, like now, I actually like to eat it raw, but it’s also great used in stir-frys. I love the way it stays crisp-tender. It’s also on the approved vegetables list, which is another way of saying Sonny will eat it.
This stir-fry uses one of my favorite flavor bases, a seasoning paste called naam prik phao. It’s a chilli paste made using chillies, shallots, tamarind juice, dried shrimp, fermented shrimp paste and sugar. As you can judge from the ingredients, it a little sweet, a little spicy and has a nice dose of umami. I use it in hot and sour soup, atop sunny side up eggs, in stir-fries and as a general dipping sauce. Naam prik phao can be found at any Thai-Viet grocer and maybe other Asian grocers with SE Asian sections. Alternatively, you can make it yourself. There are numerous recipes on the web, however I can not endorse these, as I've not tried them. I have recently made some based on a recipe from The Food of Thailand (see right side bar), and it was good. Next time I do it, I'll post about it with pictures.
Thai-style Beef and Asparagus Stir-fry
- 1 pound beef chuck steak, sliced for stir-frying
- 1 tbs Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, roughly minced
- 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 2-inch segments
- 2 tbs naam prik phao
- 2 tbs thin soy sauce (regular soy sauce is fine)
- 2 tbs oyster sauce, preferably Thai
In another small bowl, make the sauce by combining the naam prik pao, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Stir well to combine the ingredients. Set aside until needed.
Make sure you have all your ingredients very close by because this stir-fry goes lightning fast. Have a small cup of water handy as well just in case you need to thin the sauce a little. I bet it won’t take you more than 4 minutes to cook this dish!
Heat your wok over high heat until very hot. Add about 2 or 3 tbs oil (no olive! not appropriate for stir-fry; grape seed is best!) then add the beef followed by the garlic. If your wok is hot enough, your beef will cook very quickly. When the beef is seared, but not cooked through (about 30 sec to 1 minute, max) add the asparagus. Cook for another minute. Add about 2/3 of the sauce mix. It should caramelize pretty quickly because of the high sugar content. If it gets too thick add a little water to thin it out. Quickly taste it and add the rest of the sauce if you think it’s required. Give everything a quick stir, then you're done. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Added: Check out the round-up here!