‘We are eating asparagus again? Oh, I like the white one mama, mmm… they look delicious!’ It was the first reaction from Lilly when I served these asparagus Tempura for our dinner last night. I was enthralled by the way she gobbled them up with her favorite ginger lime Tamari dipping sauce, a pure enjoyment! Nothing makes me happier to see her loving food as much as I do. I was surprisingly impressed the other day by her liking for white asparagus, when she finished off (in fact licked clean!) her very first plate of blanched white asparagus, served with boiled new potato, cured ham and Hollandaise sauce (which is the traditional German way to serve white asparagus). Since asparagus season only last for about 2 months (between end of April and end of June in Germany), I will get hold on some whenever I see very fresh ones available in the market, since they are much tenderer when cooked compare to the green ones, with a subtle sweet note accompanied by silky smooth texture. It pairs brilliantly with a much richer and stronger flavour such as salty (ham, parmesan, capers etc) or dairy (butter, egg, cream etc.) ingredients.
But out of the tradition today, this recipe here is inspired by a dish which my Japanese friend Yuko made for us at her beautiful home last week. I have never had white asparagus tempura before, and I was not only intrigued by the minimal presentation of the dish: bite-size pieces of ivory-colour asparagus were neatly arranged on a white porcelain tray with a small bowl of flaky sea salt served on the side. They didn’t look like the traditional tempura that I know of as they are normally coated in batter, but Yuko’s version with only potato starch as a coating, made this starter light and delightful. But also the taste of these little jewels was exquisite: tender, delicately sweet with just a slight crunch. I am thrilled to have learned one more delicious way of preparing asparagus and thank you Yuko for the inspiration!
Note: I use a mixed of white and green asparagus which gives the dish a beautiful contrast in both taste and texture. If you have got a batch which is not super fresh then I would suggest you to use a vegetable peeler to peel off the outer layer (at least the lower part of the spear) to avoid stringy texture. Each dipping sauce I prepare here provides unique compliment to the asparagus, it is up to you to choose which one to make, or the best will be making all three.
Asparagus Tempura with 3 Dipping Sauces (ginger lime tamari, chili miso, Gomasio)
Served 3-4 as a starter
For the asparagus:
- 400g mix of white and green asparagus, snap off the woody end, washed and cut into bite size pieces (or cut in half or 3 pieces like I did)
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- vegetable oil for shallow fry
For the ginger lime tamari sauce:
- 100ml tamari (or regular soy sauce)
- juice of half a lime
- 2cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
For the chili miso sauce:
- 1 heaped tbsp. of Gochujang (Korean chili paste)
- 1/2 tbsp. of miso paste
- 2 tbsp. of lemon juice (or lime)
- 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. mirin
For the Gomashio (toasted sesame salt): (you can use only white sesame seeds if prefer)
- 1 tbsp. of black sesame, toasted
- 1 tbsp. of white sesame, toasted
- 1 pinch of flaky sea salt
First prepare all the dipping sauces: to make the ginger lime Tamari and chili miso dipping sauce by combining all ingredients on the two lists in two separate bowls, mix well and set aside. Both sauces should be sharp and acidy.
For the Gomashio (sesame salt), in a mortar and pestle, grind toasted seeds to coarse meal, add sea salt and grind again until well combined.
To make the tempura: In a mixing bowl, coat pat-dried asparagus with the potato starch. Heat 1.5 to 2 cm of vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok, to test the oil is hot enough, drop a little starch in the oil, if sizzles then the oil is ready. Shake off excess starch from the asparagus and place the them in the oil, fry for about 2-4 minutes (on medium high heat) depends on the thickness. Do not over crowd the pan, cook them in batches if needed. Turn once or twice during cooking.
Transfer the cooked asparagus on to a cooling rack lined with kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Place the asparagus on to a serving platter and served with the prepare dipping sauces.