Lemongrass Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry Recipe
Towards the end of February, we usually get locally grown asparagus at our farmers’ markets. The first week they arrived, I got to the market about 1.5 hours after it opened and about half of the farmer’s inventory had been purchased.
Years ago, I experimented with growing asparagus and after a long wait, harvested five (5!) spears. They were delicious because I’d just brought them in from the garden. Like many vegetables, they peak right after harvest. I’ve given up on growing asparagus because I’m impatient; plus, asparagus crowns require a permanent place in a garden and I lack that.
For those reasons, this time of year, I’m stalking asparagus deals at the farmers’ markets and regular supermarkets. My husband doesn’t mind because he enjoys asparagus too. Called thịt bò xào sả in Vietnamese, this lemongrass beef and asparagus stir-fry recipe is easy to whip up and a great way to savor the season’s bounty.
Asparagus Buying and Storage Tips
Over the years, I’ve found that fat asparagus spears taste better than skinny ones. I once asked a farmer about that hunch and she agreed with me. Check the tips and make sure they’re closed and firm.
I used to store asparagus in a container of water, but the flavor dulled if I keep them there too long. Nowadays, I keep the bunch (or bunches) in a produce bag in the vegetable crisper bin and try to eat them sooner than later.
If the asparagus came from the farmer’s market, I enjoy them the day I buy them. The spears’ natural sweetness and grassy flavor are best preserved and expressed then.
How to Prep Asparagus
I’ve been experimenting with making little videos in my home kitchen. I’m a one-woman production so bear with me. Here’s the latest, “No Waste Asparagus Tips” — that includes a little language lesson too!
Beefy and Lemongrass-y Tips
This lemongrass beef and asparagus stir-fry builds on an old recipe I made years ago for lemongrass beef. Nowadays, since I’m cutting back on eating meat, I retooled the recipe to use about fifty percent less meat. To pick up the slack, I use a vegetable. When asparagus is out of season, sub broccoli or green beans.
The beef I used is a sirloin cap. It comes with a layer of fat but is practically as tender as a filet mignon, the butcher told me. I’ve used the same cut for Red Boat umami steaks and air-fried steaks. It’s a delicious, affordable cut.
The lemongrass came from my garden. It was old, smallish and a bit tired, so I used two stalks. Feel free to use store-bought lemongrass, and if a fresh stalk isn’t available, use the paste from the tube. The rest of the ingredients and methods are super approachable for this recipe, which is doable for a weeknight.
Lemongrass Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry
- 12 ounces (225g) well-marbled beef steak, such as top sirloin, or tri-tip/bottom sirloin
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce (light or dark, use dark for a dramatic look)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 12 ounces (225g) asparagus
- About 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 small red or yellow onion, cut along the grain into ⅓-wide crescents
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 or 2 Fresno or jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and very thinly sliced on diagonal or minced, or 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
Thinly slice the beef across the grain into strips, each about 3 inches long, 1 inch wide, and a scant ¼ inch thick. Transfer to a bowl. Add the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and cornstarch. Mix well and set aside to marinate the beef for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim the asparagus of its woody ends, then cut on a steep diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long.
Warm a large skillet or wok over high heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon oil, then add the asparagus. Quickly stir and toss for about 30 seconds to heat through, until glossy and a brighter shade of green. Sprinkle in the salt and pour in the water. Lower the heat slightly, then cover. Let steam-cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the asparagus have slightly softened. Transfer to a plate.
Replace the pan to warm it over high heat. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, then add
the onion, garlic, chile, and lemongrass. Stir-fry for 1 minute, until fragrant.
Add the beef, spreading it out to one layer. Let it sear for a minute, then stir-fry it for another 2 minutes, or until just cooked through. Return the asparagus to the pan. Cook for another 15 seconds until the asparagus has heated through and finished cooking. Turn off the heat, let rest for about 30 seconds, taste and season with a sprinkling of extra salt, if needed. Transfer to a plate and serve.