I suppose asparagus season is shorter than Spring the season, but it is quite climactic. I mean, for a month the story of my dinners is based on the slender green veg, until one day, as I sense the tragic end is near, I buy a ten pound box and cook it in all of my favorite ways until its officially gone (and I am officially done with it until next year). Each season I fall in love with a different asparagus dish: one year it was steamed and tossed with shalloty vinaigrette; grilled/roasted with shavings of dry cheese and lemon; in a pilaf spiced with cardamom and the like with a spoon of yogurt; scattered with basil; shaved in a salad with nothing but cilantro and chives; always, every year, with a poached egg on top. This years feature asparagus meal: jazzed up with tamarind. I think I ate the last ten pounds worth this way...
Tamarind is bright, brighter than any lemon or lime, sold in pulp form and found in curries and laksas, looking, in its uncooked form, like a long, brownish orange, friend of ginger and turmeric. But it is not a root, it is a (very un-sweet) fruit. And it does wonderful things to asparagus.
I find myself using the delete key more often than usual while writing this post, trying to find a way to describe how this seemingly odd flavour combination works. I mean, both are strong, recognizable, flavours that somehow compliment rather than combat eachother in a dish. Sure, bright lemon brings asparagus to life, but lemon is subtle, whereas tamarind is bold, yet it has the same effect. Tamarind kicks asparagus with a hit of tang, and asparagus responds with a lively grassiness much like the fresh coriander sings in a curry. With a rich coconut or lentil background, the two are at once balanced and flipping all over the place in your mouth. This is dinner and a show. No editing necessary.
This is the recipe that inspired this seasons favorite asparagus dinner:
And this is this seasons favorite asparagus dinner:
Asparagus in Ginger Tamarind Broth
Serve this with long slurpy rice noodles...next Spring!
1 Tbsp tamarind pulp
1 small knob each ginger and galangal (or one medium knob ginger); grated
2 cloves garlic; thinly sliced
1 shallot; thinly sliced
thai chili, fresh or dried, to taste
as many prawns as you can eat; peeled and deviened
as much asparagus as you can eat, sliced if quite fat, broken into sticks if thin
1/4 cup full fat coconut moo
Gently soften ginger/galangal, garlic, shallots, and chili in olive oil or peanut oil. Fry prawns, quickly, just to turn pink, then remove and set aside. Add the tamarind and smush in to break up. Slowly pour in 2 cups of water and stir to fully loosen the tamarind. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer until reduced to 1 1/2 cups liquid. Return prawns to pan, add asparagus, and as it turns that bright shade of green, stir in the coconut milk. Pour over rice noodles and top with fresh coriander. Jazzy.
Note: seriously, wait til next spring. Out of season asparagus is just a bad idea.