Asparagus Salad in Smoky Sauce

Asupara no Ohitashi

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

An American Taste of Japan

An American Taste of Japan

By Elizabeth Andoh

Published 1985

  • About

This dish is an adaptation of a Japanese classic that’s typically made with spinach. Here the woodsy-sweet flavor of the asparagus is beautifully complemented by the bonito flakes that garnish the vegetable. Japanese asparagus is pencil thin and appears in the market from early spring through the rainy season in July. In America, the season for fresh asparagus is a bit longer, allowing us to enjoy this dish well through the summer and even into the fall.

Ingredients

Tosa Sauce

  • 1 cup dashi (basic sea stock)
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (syrupy rice wine)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, usukuchi shōyu (light soy sauce) preferred
  • 1 package (5 grams) or about cup katsuo bushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • 1 pound fresh green asparagus, slender stalks preferred

Method

Season the basic sea stock with the syrupy rice wine and soy sauce, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the bonito flakes for later and sprinkle the remainder of the package over the boiling seasoned stock. Remove the pot from the heat and let the stock steep for 3 minutes. Pour the liquid through a cloth- or paper-lined strainer or colander into a glass or ceramic dish (I find an by 4 by inch loaf pan the most convenient size and shape). Set aside.

Trim the asparagus discarding the woody bottoms, then cut what remains of the stalks in half. Bring a small pot of salted water to a rolling boil and add the lower, thicker halves of the stalks. Cook for 30 seconds or until the water returns to a boil, whichever is sooner. Add the tip pieces of the asparagus to the pot and cook for 1 minute or for 30 seconds after the water returns to a boil again, whichever is sooner. Drain the asparagus, both tips and stalks, promptly and place the pieces in the waiting tosa sauce.

Allow the sauced asparagus pieces to cool to room temperature before covering and chilling them in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

When you’re ready to serve this dish, lift the lower halves of the asparagus out of the tosa sauce and divide them into four portions. The stalks should run parallel to each other and form a small bundle on each plate. (I’m particularly fond of serving this salad in shallow glass bowls.) Next, divide the tips of the asparagus into four portions and align these so that the tips all point in the same direction. Lay the tip pieces over the stalk pieces, forming each serving into a gentle mound. Sprinkle a half tablespoon of the reserved bonito flakes across the center of each serving of asparagus, just before bringing to the table.