1. Snap off the root end of each asparagus stalk. Slice the asparagus into 2-in. pieces on the bias so the resulting points echo the tapered tips of the asparagus. Set aside.
2. Make the cooking sauce: Mix together sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, "oyster" sauce, and 1/2 tsp. oil in a small bowl.
3. Heat a large heavy skillet or wok over high heat and pour in 3 tbsp. oil. Add garlic and fry, stirring vigorously, until the garlic is just beginning to brown, 10 to 15 seconds. Toss in shrimp and cook about 30 seconds. Add 1 tbsp. cooking sauce, toss to coat, and cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp are almost opaque all the way through, about 2 minutes. Scrape shrimp and seasonings into a bowl and set aside.
4. Wipe pan clean and place back over high heat. Pour in remaining 2 tbsp. oil and add shallots. Cook, stirring vigorously, until shallots are slightly browned--30 to 60 seconds. Add asparagus, toss, and pour in remaining sauce mixture. Cook asparagus until almost tender but still a little crunchy, 3 to 5 minutes depending on their thickness. Add shrimp mixture and toss to warm through.
5. Pull off the heat. Stir in the rice wine and pepper and serve immediately, with rice.
*Use mild Three Crabs brand for cooking; find in Asian markets and well-stocked grocery stores. The Banhs prefer vegetarian "oyster" sauce, made from mushrooms, to regular oyster sauce because they feel the quality is more consistent.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving without rice.