Stir-Fried Asparagus

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 20 minutes

Among the simplest and most straightforward of stir-fries and one of the best made with only one vegetable.

11/2 to 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled, then cut into 2-inch lengths

2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 dried chiles (optional)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil (optional)

Salt

If the asparagus is thick, follow the directions for Asparagus Done Simply, undercooking the asparagus a bit and it (see Shocking Vegetables), then draining and drying. If it’s thin, no precooking is necessary.

When you’re ready to cook, heat a wok or large skillet over high heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the oil, wait a few seconds, then add the asparagus. Cook, stirring, for a minute, then stir in the garlic and the chiles if you’re using them. Cook until the asparagus is dry, hot, and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons water and the soy sauce and continue to cook until the asparagus is tender, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sesame oil if you’re using it and salt if necessary and serve.

5 Ideas for Stir-Fried Asparagus

As with any stir-fry, this one has infinite variations. Some of my favorites:

  1. Add 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, soaked for a few minutes in dry sherry, Shaoxing wine, or water to cover, along with the soy sauce.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger along with the garlic.
  3. Cook the asparagus with about 1/2 cup chopped onion and/or sliced red or yellow bell pepper.
  4. Cook the asparagus with 4 to 6 peeled and halved shallots.
  5. During the final minute of stir-frying, sprinkle with about 1/4 cup chopped nuts, like peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, or almonds.