"You wouldn't find fresh asparagus in Saigon when I was a kid," says chef Eric Banh, co-owner with his sister, Sophie, of Seattle's Monsoon and Ba Bar restaurants, "but it's the kind of thing that a fancy restaurant would serve [from cans]." Now that he and Sophie live in the Pacific Northwest, where spring asparagus is sweet, juicy, and abundant, they love to use it in spring dishes--like this savory shrimp stir-fry.
1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce, preferably Three Crabs brand*
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon vegetarian "oyster" sauce*
5 tablespoons plus 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp, tails left on
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.
Make the cooking sauce: Mix together sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, "oyster" sauce, and 1/2 tsp. oil in a small bowl.
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.
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.
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.
Monsoon and Ba Bar, Seattle
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