When the last of the winter snow has melted and the birds begin to chirp in the morning, spring is on the way. This is affirmed by a few baby green leaves bursting up from the ground as the plants wake from their seasonal slumber. And the sight of asparagus is another tell-tale sign that spring is upon us.
It’s been more than a year since we have been living like monks and sheltering-in-place and, if we want to eat well, we were all forced to stretch our culinary dexterity to impressive lengths. Or starve. Because dining out wasn’t always an option, and because we constantly crave Asian food, David and I proudly mastered our first stir-fry dish last year, thanks to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.
For as long as I can remember, we have struggled to cook authentic Chinese food at home. Yes, we have all of the spices and sauces, but the recipes never turned out quite the way we wanted them to. After years of limping through lame stir-fry dishes and forcing ourselves to eat what we made, we waited impatiently for the right Asian dish to catapult our confidence.
Bon Appetit to the Rescue
Featured in the March 2020 issue of Bon Appetit, we’ve been savoring this dish ever since the magazine landed in our mailbox. Because this recipe comes from Deb, one of my favorite bloggers who is also a featured writer for Bon Appetit, I knew it had been vetted many times to ensure it was a winner–hence our willingness to try making Asian food at home one more time. As we suspected, this simple and incredibly savory dish hits every note. In fact, this dish comes together so seamlessly, you can have this dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.
We have probably made this Sichuan-inspired pork and asparagus stir-fry at least a half dozen times. Each time, we tweak it a bit more based on what we have and don’t have. It’s a dish we have leaned on when we want to eat well and when we want big flavor, but don’t have a lot of time. And it’s the dish we will always lean on when we crave Chinese food.
Inherently versatile, you can replace the ground pork with ground beef or strips of chicken or shrimp. Not into asparagus? Go with broccoli or boy choy. But what you won’t want to change is the sauce. The combination of sherry wine, soy or tamari and toasted sesame oil is all you need to perfectly season this dish and make you feel like it’s as good as Chinese take-out.
With generous hints of garlic and ginger throughout, this simple recipe will give you the stir-fry confidence you have been waiting for without a lot of fuss, ingredients or complicated steps.
Pork and Asparagus Stir-Fry
Crispy ground pork combines with ginger, garlic and asparagus for a simple but stunning dish with bold flavors that will have you craving more. Don't have asparagus, replace it with bok choy? Don't have green onions, use shallots. I always like to add a handful of greens as well, such as chopped kale or spinach. Prefer pork strips instead of ground pork, be my guest. This dish is versatile and yet spot-on in flavor. Top with crushed peanuts and crispy chili-onion crunch for both crunch and a hint of spice.
- 3 teaspoons peanut or grapeseed oil divided
- 1 lb ground pork
- 6 green onions or 2 big shallots, sliced
- 5 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 3" piece ginger peeled and finely chopped
- 1 lb asparagus cut on a diagonal into 1"-2" pieces
- Kosher or sea salt to taste when cooking meat and asparagus
- 1/2 cup kale or spinach cut into strips so it melts easily
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) or medium-dry sherry
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Chopped peanuts garnish, optional
- Crispy chili-onion oil garnish, optional for added heat
Chop the green onions or shallots, garlic and ginger.
Add 1 teaspoon oil to a large wok over high heat. Once the wok is hot, add the ground pork or protein of choice. Spread out the protein in an even layer so it all gets nice and browned. Add a pinch of salt and let the leat begin to brown, about 2-4 minutes.
Break up the meat with a wooden spoon and add scallions or shallots, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring until pork is crisp and the mixture is very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Place the crispy meat, onions, garlic and ginger on a plate and set aside.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and let the oil get hot again. Add half of the chopped asparagus and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing only once or twice so the pieces blister. Cook about 4 minutes, until aspragus is crisp-tender and lightly browned. Transfer asparagus to the plate with the pork.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and, once it's hot, add the remaining asparagus and repeat the cooking process.
Once the asparagus is cooked, add the plate of asparagus and pork back into the wok, along with any residual juice. Now add whatever greens you want, such as kale or spinach and cook for 1 minute to let the greens cook.
Add the wine and tamari or soy sauce and cook about 1 minute, turning to coat so it melds and is heated through.
Transfer stir fry to a platter or large shallow bowl and drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Serve with rice or rice noodles and add salted peanuts and chili crisp for garnish.