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Author Notes: I’ll never forget the time I walked with an asparagus farmer through one of his fields as he explained how these spears of “grass” shoot through mounds of soil and transform into the bright-green stalks that land on our plates during springtime. He got down on his hands and knees and dug through the earth to reveal an asparagus crown, with its tangle of roots. Who knew there was such complexity beneath these spears of succulence? One of my favorite ways to prepare asparagus is to stir-fry them with beef and shiitake mushrooms. The quick-cooking technique keeps the asparagus from turning soggy and the freshness of the asparagus balances the heartiness of the beef and shiitake mushrooms. —Hsiao-Ching Chou
For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine or dry Marsala wine
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
For the Stir-fry
- 1/2 pound flank steak
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 1/2 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch segments
- 6 to 8 medium-sized dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water to reconstitute, stems removed, caps sliced in half
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder
- To make the sauce, in a small bowl, put the soy sauce, water, ginger, wine, and garlic, and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Trim the flank steak of any large pieces of membrane. Cut the flank in half or thirds lengthwise, or with the grain. Depending on the total width of the flank, you may get two or three sections that are about 3 inches wide. Cut these sections against the grain into 1/8-inch slices. Place the beef in a medium bowl. Add the soy sauce and mix well. Add the cornstarch and mix well again.
- Preheat a wok over high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Gently add the beef and, using a spatula, quickly spread it into a single layer in the bowl of the wok. Sear the beef for about 15 seconds and then stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, breaking up any pieces that have stuck together. Remove the wok from the heat, transfer the beef to a medium bowl, and set aside. Rinse the wok and dry with a towel.
- Return the wok to the stove over high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the spears have turned dark green. Add the beef and stir to combine. Add the sauce, and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sauce has penetrated all the ingredients. Add the sesame oil and pepper, and give it one last stir. Serve with steamed rice.