The cut that Chinese cooks call “horse ears” is easy to make with asparagus stalks. It turns the lengths into rough-cut triangles, which exposes lots of tender white interior for caramelization and glazing. You can also add Chinese leeks or scallions to this mix.
|1||pound fresh asparagus, ends snapped off|
|2||tablespoons vegetable oil|
|Salt, to taste|
|½||teaspoon toasted sesame oil|
|1||tablespoon white sesame seeds|
1. Holding a spear on a cutting board with your left hand, make a diagonal cut. Then roll the stalk over once and make a second diagonal cut across the stalk to meet the first cut; it will run in the opposite direction to the first cut and create a rough, triangular shape, and a piece about 1½ inches long. Continue with remaining spears.
2. Set a large cast-iron skillet or wok over high heat. When a wisp of smoke escapes from the dry pan, add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then quickly add half the asparagus and a pinch of salt. Let the asparagus sit without disturbing for 1 minute. Stir vigorously a couple of times and let them sit again for 1 to 2 minutes. When the pieces have all picked up some caramelization, stir them a final time and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and asparagus.
3. When all the asparagus are cooked, lower the heat slightly and add the mirin, tamari, and sesame oil. It will bubble and thicken to a glaze in 30 to 60 seconds. Return the asparagus to the pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
T. Susan Chang