I am cooking shrimp and asparagus stir-fry for our dinner tonight.
Although asparagus is not the typical vegetable for the Asian, I want to pair it with the stir-fried shrimp as its tender-crisp texture delivers a sharp contrast to the intensely savory flavor of the stir-fried shrimp, which is an ideal combination.
I also reckon that most of the related recipes published on this dish are either seasoned with soy sauce or lemon juice. Therefore, I am looking for a unique taste with ketchup and Worcestershire sauce.
My version of the shrimp and asparagus stir-fry is divided into two parts. The first part is the saute asparagus lightly seasoned with soy sauce, salt, sugar, and white pepper. The flavor is light and refreshing. The second part is stir-frying the shrimp with a combination of oyster sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce.
Both are stir-fried separately to preserve the contrast of flavor when they are served together.
Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how I prepare the shrimp and asparagus stir fry.
Part 1 – Stir-fry the asparagus
I stir-fry the asparagus and shrimp separately so that they have a distinctive flavor. To achieve that, different sets of seasonings are used for the asparagus and shrimp.
Cut and trim the asparagus
First, let’s prepare the asparagus. Here are the steps:
- Discard the fibrous end of the asparagus that is near to the stem. One easy way is to snap the asparagus at the position about one third near to the stem. The tough and the edible part will break into two at the snapping point.
- If you want to retain a larger edible portion of the asparagus, cut away the tough end slightly more towards the end, and peel off the fibrous surface deeper of this section until the white part of the asparagus is fully revealed.
- Peel off the fibrous surface except for the part near to the tip. Cut the asparagus crosswise into three to four sections.
Season the asparagus lightly
- Heat some oil in a pan. I used to cook it in a wok, but now I prefer to use a nonstick pan. That is because I only prepare for a small family, and it requires less oil to stir-fry.
- Add the asparagus (except the tip) and saute over medium heat, followed by adding the chopped garlic and continue stir-frying.
- I add the garlic after the asparagus because chopped garlic can burn quickly. Continue stir-frying until the garlic turns fragrant, and the asparagus begins to become tender.
- Now throw in the tips of the asparagus as it takes a much shorter time to cook.
- It is also time to add all the seasonings: light soy sauce, sugar, salt, and white pepper.
- You may need to put in a tablespoon or two of water at this moment if it is too dry to stir-fry.
- Once the seasonings are well mixed with the vegetable, remove from heat immediately to keep the asparagus fresh and tender-crisp.
- Separate the tips from the stem as I need to put the stem at the bottom of the plate, and top with the combination of cooked shrimp and asparagus tips.
Substitute for the asparagus
What if you do not enjoy asparagus, or prefer other vegetables that are readily available in Asia?
French beans and snake beans are decent alternatives. They are tender-crisp just like asparagus and can be prepared and stir-fry the same way as the asparagus.
Part 2 – Stir-fry the shrimp
You can consider that the shrimp is a separate dish, but they are both quick and easy to combine as one.
Clean the pan and start again for the next stir-fry – the shrimp.
How to prepare the shrimp
Clean the shrimp the usual way by removing the head and devein.
There are options whether to leave the shell on or not.
- By keeping the shell on, you can pan-fry or stir-fry the shrimp over high heat to create a slightly charred surface without worry. The shrimp will become dry. This step also improves the aroma considerably. It also holds more sauce underneath the shell and makes it more plump and juicy. The downside is messy when you eat them.
- On the contrary, it is convenient to eat without the shell, but the shrimp will become overcooked and dry if you brown them over high heat, since there is no shell to protect the shrimp meat from direct heat.
I also need to cook down the sauce to let it thicken and stick onto the shrimp. I choose the second option in this recipe as I’m not particularly eager to eat shrimp with the shell.
Either way, you can leave the trail on for a more attractive presentation.
Keep the shrimp dry
It is crucial to keep the shrimp as dry as possible before stir-frying. This cooking method relies on the dry heat transmitted through the pan/wok to create the aroma. Too much water means the shrimp will be simmered rather than stir-frying.
The stir-frying process
Heat some oil in a clean pan. Pour the shrimp in it and stir-fry over medium heat. You may want to leave the shrimp untouched in the pan to shear for a short while. Remember shearing it for too long will cause the shrimp taste dry. Once both sides of the shrimp have turned to pink, add the seasonings.
The savory seasonings
The seasonings I use are constituted with oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and Chinese wine. Once you add these into the pan one by one, the shrimp will become a little bit wet. That is why I recommend shearing or pan-frying the shrimp before adding the seasonings.
Keep the heat at medium to high to quickly reduce the seasonings to a thick sauce, which will cling on to the shrimp to form a glossy sheen.
Put it all together
Now switch off the stove and add the tips of the asparagus and the scallions back to the pan. Mix well with the shrimp and transfer it to the plate line with a bed of asparagus stems.
The method to stir-fry the asparagus and shrimp separately creates two entirely different flavors and texture. The combination of oyster sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce is the idea I got from the Chinese style lamb cutlets I had in a renowned Chinese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur many years ago. I have also published my version of lamb cutlets on this blog sometimes ago.
For the asparagus:
- 500g asparagus (weight before cut)
- 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper
For the shrimp:
For the asparagus:
- Discard the fibrous end. Peel off the fibrous surface except for the part near to the tip. Cut the asparagus crosswise into three to four sections.
- Add the asparagus (except the tip) and saute over medium heat, followed by adding the chopped garlic.
- Throw in the tips of the asparagus.
- Add all the seasonings: light soy sauce, sugar, salt, and white pepper. Remove from heat immediately.
For the shrimp
- Clean the shrimp, the head, shell and devein. Leave the tail intact.
- Drain the shrimp in a wire mesh strainer, then spread them on a double-layered paper towel to absorb the extra water.
- Stir-fry over medium heat.
- Once both sides of the shrimp have turned to pink, add the seasonings.
- Reduce and thicken the sauce.
- Add the tips of the asparagus and the scallions back to the pan. Mix well.
- Transfer it to the plate line with a bed of asparagus stems.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 415Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 528mgSodium: 4467mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 65g