Chinatown Stir-fried Asparagus with Oyster Sauce

Perusing menus from hundreds of Chinese restaurants, I was struck by the number that feature this simple stir-fried asparagus dish. It is truly a Westernized Chinese dish, for asparagus is a relatively recent arrival in Chinese cooking. The ever-pragmatic Chinese cooks instantly realized the appeal of this popular vegetable in the West and learned to combine it with a tasteful and very Chinese treat – oyster sauce. The result quickly became a popular standard item that every non-Chinese diner in Chinese restaurants throughout the country could count on. Thick asparagus, with its meaty stem, was preferred because it married well with the savoury oyster sauce. This easy stir-fried dish nevertheless had a hint of exotic China. It makes a nice vegetable accompaniment to any meal.


  • 675 g (1½ lb) fresh thick asparagus
  • 1½ tablespoons groundnut oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced garlic
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) Chinese Chicken Stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil


Remove the hard ends of the asparagus, then cut the vegetable into thick diagonal slices.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Swirl in the groundnut oil and, when it is hot and slightly smoking, toss in the salt, pepper and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Now toss in the asparagus and continue to stir-fry for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken stock, rice wine and oyster sauce and continue to cook over a high heat for 3 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender. Stir in the sesame oil and serve at once.