Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry

Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry

A tangy dish with ginger, garlic, and fermented black beans

Peak asparagus season is short, so we like to take full advantage of it. Hence today’s dish, where asparagus has the starring role in stir-fry.

We combine it with pork in this recipe, but you could substitute chicken or beef. Shrimp would work too. Or you could even use tofu if you want to go meatless.

But whatever you do, don’t forget the asparagus.



Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry

Recipe: Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry

We should say upfront that this dish isn’t “authentic” stir-fry. For that, you need a very intense heat source. Most of us don’t have super-powered stovetops, so we have to adapt. In this case, we finish the dish by braising it in a bit of liquid (chicken stock). The dish takes a few minutes longer to cook than traditional stir-fry, and the texture is not quite the same. But the flavor is great – and that’s what matters to us.

We like to add sweet red or yellow bell peppers to this dish, but feel free to substitute another veggie. Or just add extra asparagus.

Prep time for this dish is about 20 minutes (and you can do most of it ahead of time). Cooking adds about 10 minutes. If you’re serving this dish with rice, add another 25 minutes or so for cooking it (depending on package directions).

This recipe yields 2 to 3 main-course servings. Leftovers keep for a couple of days if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients
  • 6 to 8 ounces pork (boneless loin or pork chops work well)
  • 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry (see Notes)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional; see Notes)
  • ~8 ounces asparagus (to taste)
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bell pepper (preferably red, orange, or yellow) or a handful of mini sweet bell peppers (see Notes)
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cooking oil (as needed)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons Chinese chili/garlic paste
  • ½ cup chicken stock (more if you want a really saucy dish)
  • 1 additional tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 additional tablespoon soy sauce
  • cooked rice for serving (optional)
Procedure
  1. Cut the pork into strips of about 1 inch long and ¼ inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon each of rice wine/sherry, soy sauce, and cornstarch (if using) in a mixing bowl (use one that’s large enough to hold the pork). Stir to combine, then add the pork strips. Toss the pork with the mixture, then allow it to marinate for 20 minutes as you prep the veggies. (You can do this step an hour or two ahead and let the pork continue to marinate until ready to use; just cover the bowl with shrink wrap and refrigerate it.)
  2. Cut off and discard an inch or two of the less-tender butt end of each asparagus spear (up to a third of the spear). Then cut the asparagus spears into pieces about 2 inches long (you can use a bias cut – i.e., cut them on a slant – if you want a fancier look). Set aside.
  3. Peel the ginger and chop it roughly. Place it in the bowl of a mini food processor. Peel the garlic and chop it roughly. Add it to the mini food processor. Pulse the food processor until the ingredients are finely chopped. 
  4. Wash and dry the bell pepper(s). If using a regular bell pepper: Core it, then cut it into dice of about ½ inch. If using mini bell peppers: Cut them into rounds (we usually don’t core these). Set aside.
  5. Wash and dry the scallions. Cut off their root ends, then cut the scallions into thin slices (start with the white part and go about halfway up the green part). Set aside.
  6. Rinse the fermented black beans with water. Set aside.
  7. When ready to cook the dish: Place a large frying pan (cast iron works best; see Notes) over medium stovetop heat. Let the pan heat for 3 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, then add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Add the marinated pork strips to the pan. Sear the pork strips on one side, then use tongs or chopsticks to flip them over. Cook on each side until the pork begins to brown (about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on how hot your pan is). Remove the pork strips from the frying pan and let them drain on a plate covered with paper towels.
  8. Lower the stovetop heat to medium. Add more cooking oil to the frying pan if necessary, then add the chopped ginger/garlic mixture. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the chopped asparagus, bell peppers, and scallions. Stir-fry for two minutes. Add the chili paste, fermented black beans, and chicken stock. Add 1 tablespoon each of rice wine/dry sherry and soy sauce. Let the mixture cook for 2 minutes, then add the pork strips back to the pan. Cook for another minute or two, until the asparagus pieces are tender. 
  9. Serve as is, or over rice.
Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry

Notes
  • Most modern frying pans don’t do well on extremely high stovetop heat (you can ruin the finish of a nonstick pan; stainless pans can warp if overheated). So don’t turn the heat up past medium-high if you’re using a nonstick or stainless frying pan.
  • But cast iron can take the heat, so disregard that caution if you’re using a cast-iron frying pan. 
  • You could also try using a wok (they’re made to withstand high heat). Be advised, however, that most woks don’t work well on typical stovetops.
  • You can find fermented black beans in any Chinese food store. Or look online (Amazon carries them).
  • They’re not really black beans, BTW. They’re actually soy beans that are fermented and heavily salted. They pack a lot of flavor, so you don’t need to use more than a tablespoon or so for most dishes.
  • Fermented black beans keep for a long time. We refrigerate them, and they keep that way for a year or longer.
  • Shaoxing rice wine is traditional in Chinese cooking, but we usually substitute dry sherry. The flavor of the two is very similar, and we usually have dry sherry on hand. 
  • You can skip the rice wine/sherry if you wish. If you go that route, you may want to use more soy sauce.
  • For this dish, we like to use mini sweet-bell peppers (you can find them sold in packages at most grocery stores). But a regular-sized bell pepper works too (and sometimes has better flavor). In any case, use red, orange, or yellow bell peppers. We don’t think green ones work in this dish.
  • You can leave out the cornstarch to Step 1 if you prefer (it’s mainly there to thicken the sauce). 
  • Alternatively, if you want a thicker sauce, you could add the cornstarch right at the end (before serving the dish). If you’re going that route, dissolve a tablespoon of cornstarch in two tablespoons of cold water, then stir it into the dish right before serving. You can read our recipe for Chicken and Celery Stir-Fry for more details on using this technique. 
  • Feel free to use more pork and/or asparagus than we specify. We think the dish is nicely balanced as is, but adding more of a favorite ingredient is always fun. 
  • You can prep most ingredients for this dish a couple of hours ahead. Then just refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook.
Asparagus and Pork Stir-Fry

Creating a Stir

“Asparagus, yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Plus ginger and garlic? Just call me a porker.”

“Those fermented black beans add zing too,” I said. “They’re kinda the straw that stirs the drink.”

“And the touch of chili incites a taste riot,” said Mrs K R. “This dish is hog wild.”

Not to mention stir crazy.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Chicken and Celery Stir-Fry
Vegan Mapo Tofu
Simple and Quick Vegetable Stir-Fry
Singapore Noodles
Hot and Sour Soup
Crab Rangoon
Red-Braised Beef with Sweet Potatoes
Shrimp Toast Dip
Or check out the index for more

64 comments:

  1. This really is the best time of year for asparagus. We tend to eat it all year round but we really gorge on it during the Spring when it is in season. I love finding asparagus that is white or purple too. Great recipe!

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  2. Hi Dahn, I sometimes see white asparagus, but purple can be hard to find. Mainly a farmer's market thing, at least around here. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Big fan of asparagus, ginger, garlic, and fermented black beans (yep they keep forever). Looks like a great dish. Would love once to cook a real stir-fry on a giant wok on a giant flame lol.

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  4. Hi Evelyne, I'd love to cook on a giant wok on a giant flame, too! That's be fun. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Great combination of flavors and textures - I love asparagus!!

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  6. Hi Pam, asparagus is great, isn't it? Its season is all too short. :-( Thanks for the comment.

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  7. You're right about woks being perfect for this kind of cooking, but a pain to work with on most stoves. Ours even has a ring base to help stabilize it over the flame, but we rarely haul it out. Meanwhile, this dish is firing on all cylinders for me—so many great flavors working together.

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  8. Hi Terry, I have an electric wok that actually works pretty well. Doesn't get quite hot enough, but it does a pretty good job. But I usually just haul out a large frying pan -- it's easier. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  9. I have a wonderful heavy wok, but it's so heavy that I can't lift it with one hand and flip the food! So most of the time I use one with a wooden handle that works well. Oh, I love fermented black beans. In my mother's Chinese phase, she cooked with them often, and even though I was quite picky at that stage, I love those beans!!!

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  10. Hi Mimi, the flavor of those fermented black beans is SO addictive, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I always love your stories and your tips, especially about non-stick and stainless steel pans! The flavor in this dish sounds wonderful. I love asparagus this time of year.

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  12. Yes, I'm loving asparagus season here too. An asparagus starring stir fry is now on my list. GREG

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  13. Hi Ashley, we've ruined a pan or two by turning the heat up too high. :-( Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Hi Greg, asparagus is wonderful in stir-fry! Although almost anything is. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Stir fries are great as they're so adaptable to what you have on hand. Going to pick up some fermented black beans and make a chicken version ASAP! Terrific recipes---I'll try pork next :)

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  16. Hi Liz, fermented black beans are a super ingredient! Add a lot of oomph to any dish. And they're nice with chicken (or try them with lamb sometime -- really extraordinary). Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Love the idea of the fermented black beans! I have a wok (stickable kind) but I need to oil it in-between use, otherwise it tends to rust. Thanks so much for the recipe.

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  18. Hi Fran, fermented black beans are pretty good, huh? And we'll never turn down ginger and garlic! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Stirfries have been my go-to for decades 3-4 times a week. Don't think any two have had the same flavour combo! As I do not have gas I cannot have a classic wok-burner so common in Australian homes either. Yes, it is a pain but I have persisted and achieved acceptable versions using one of my woks. Have rarely used asparagus not in season here at the moment but shall remember in spring . . . your dish, even if in 'stir-fry' style does look very moreish . . .

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  20. Hi Eha, asparagus is wonderful in a stir-fry! And its flavor works really well with pork and the fermented black beans. And ginger and garlic, of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I love asparagus so I'll never have enough ways to eat it. This looks wonderful!

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  22. hi KR

    not pork fans in this household but we love stir fries! and asparagus. not the season for it here so we will wait till spring. sadly we get those spears from other countries this time of year. i think some may come from california even!

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  23. Hi Kelsie, we've been feasting on asparagus the last couple of weeks. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Hi Sherry, this would be good with chicken, in particular, or also beef. Don't blame you for not wanting to make this with imported asparagus -- the stuff we get always looks good, but has almost no taste. Better to wait for the seasonal stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Those sweet bell peppers are just perfect for a stirfry and many other dishes for that matter. I don't remember ever having used asparagus in a stirfry like this, and I'm loving it. In fact, I'm loving everything about this dish. Have always wanted to give fermented black beans a try just to see what they add to a dish. I it at the Asian market all of the time. A great inspiring dish, John. Thanks!

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  26. Hi MJ, we don't often use fermented black beans, but when we do, we wonder why we don't more often! They really provide some nice tang to a dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. A fantastic seasonal stirfry! We had lots of white asparagus last days, but haven't made one single stirfry yet. Time to get some green variety to make this!

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  28. Hi Angie, asparagus is wonderful in a stir-fry! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  29. Great dish John, would love to make a beef version of this dish. Just finished watching an Asian series happening in a restaurant named " the wok" it was great watching how cooking in a wok works.

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  30. John, I think asparagus is fantastic in a stir-fry or for that matter anyway they're cooked. I also like to use fermented black beans in various stir-frys. To me, on their own, they're salty and not too appetizing. But, in the right proportion just as you say, it gives the dish a bit of zing.

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  31. Fabulous stir fry! Love all the bright colors and the fermented black beans must give amazing flavor!

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  32. Hi Amira, a beef version of this would be nice! Lotta flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Hi Natalia, we never say "no" to stir-fry either! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Hi Ron, I don't like fermented black beans at all eaten by themselves, but combined with other ingredients in a stir-fry? Magic! Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Hi Kelly, we like colorful -- and flavorful!!! -- food. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  36. I don't seem to return from the market lately without a bundle of asparagus. This is a delicious way to use it! On my list. :-) ~Valentina

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  37. Hi Valentina, hard to resist asparagus at this time of the year, isn't it? So I don't even try! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  38. This is definitely my kind of meal! It looks so good and flavorful, plus asparagus!!

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  39. This is exactly the kind of meal we love to prepare on a weeknight after work. I love the fact that you use different combinations of ingredients than we do - makes every dish taste a little different!

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  40. Hi Amy, can't beat asparagus! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Hi David, this is one of those dishes that's really easy to make differently each time you make it. Nice to have variety! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Such a flavorful way to enjoy asparagus season! I like the original recipe with pork, it sounds fabulous.

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  43. Hi Deb, pork for us, too, but you can use a lot of different proteins in this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. Your photos look delicious. I'm on my way home from a week of no cooking, maybe something like that will be good when we return to home made meals. I did try a few cocktails on the ship we traveled on, and some of them did make me think of your photos, especially when a few women at our table had a Cosmo, which looked like your type of thing.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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  45. Hi Mae, we have a good Cosmo recipe - you should look it up. :D You're in a wonderful part of the world. Enjoy! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  46. Oh wow! Clearly asparagus are in season right now - they look so large and in charge in this "stir fry"! I would probably eat those first out of the mix ;)

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  47. Hi GiGi, how could you NOT eat the asparagus first? :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  48. I love a good stir fry! It's not part of my cooking repertoire, but maybe this is the incentive I need to change that.

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  49. Hi Jeff, we don't do this sort of dish nearly enough. Every time we do a stir-fry, we wonder why it's not a weekly deal (more like several times a year). We gotta change that! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  50. I always look forward to asparagus season. But then it's gone before you know it. That's why I go crazy buying too much every week (!!!), but I add it to everything -- including black bean stir-fries like this. ;)

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  51. Black Bean Sauce and chilis along with seasonal veggies would be a huge hit at our house. We have all the ingredients and sauces so can't wait to try this with asparagus. Hope your week is going well, John. Take Care

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  52. Hi Carolyn, we've been eating tons of asparagus too. Well, not actual tons, but you know what I mean. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  53. Hi Bobbi, black beans are terrific, aren't they? LOVE their flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  54. I do love a good stir-fry and this one sounds fantastic!

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  55. Hi Rocquie, it's really good. Really, really good. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  56. The asparagus looks delicious! I can't enough of it this time of year.

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  57. Hi Lisa, we're asparagus-crazed at this time of the year. The rest of the year we're just crazed. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  58. Love this dish, It sounds very delicious, John! It's a shame asparagus season is so short. Now I know what to make the next time with pork. Thanks for sharing!

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  59. Hi Pam, asparagus season really is too short, isn't it? We can always find it in the store, of course, but it's only worth buying during its season. :-( Thanks for the comment.

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  60. I haven't ever used fermented black beans in a recipe before and you have me so intrigued to try it out - this stir fry looks delicious - we love asparagus and need to try this soon!

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  61. Hi Shashi, fermented black beans are wonderful! Bet you'll start using them all the time. :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  62. I recently bought fermented black beans with no particular recipe in mind...now I have a good one. :D

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  63. Hi Karen, great timing! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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