Crunchy, spicy Asparagus Belacan

Asparagus Belacan – crunchy, spicy – just the way we like it.

Asparagus Belacan is our Malaysian take on this legit superfood with incredible antioxidant benefits.

It’s good for your kidneys, packed with vitamins, protein and fibre, and lifts your mood. More importantly, it’s *ahem* apparently an aphrodisiac.

And even though we commonly see asparagus featured in more Western-style cooking, it does pop up every so often in local stir-fried vegetable dishes, although rarely up front and centre-stage.

Malaysians like our food with a little zing and lots of variety, so boiled, steamed or grilled asparagus may not quite be what we’re looking for during our regular meals. Nor does it go well with rice or steamed fish or spiced fried chicken.

Asparagus Belacan however is a great way to localise this tasty vegetable to suit our eclectic taste buds, and you can do it pretty easily too.

Packed with flavour, spice and still healthy? We’re totally in.

Ingredients

• 8 fat asparagus stalks, or 20 thin stalks

• 2 tbsp Sambal Belacan

• 5 shallots

• 2 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in a bit of water

• 2 tbsp cooking oil

Method

• Pound the shallots and soaked dried shrimp to medium coarseness using a pestle and mortar. You can also use a food processor.

• Discard the bottom ends of the asparagus stalks and slice the remaining portions diagonally, roughly 2cm long.

• In a pan, heat the oil and add in the shallots and shrimp mixture, followed by Sambal Belacan. Fry until fragrant.

The smell of shallots, dried shrimp and Sambal Belacan being sautéed is intoxicating to say the least.

• Add in the asparagus and stir-fry for about three minutes, or until the asparagus is tender but still crunchy. The asparagus is ready to serve!

Asparagus meets sautéed Sambal Belacan.

Extra tips

• Cooking times may vary depending on how thick the asparagus stalks are.

• As asparagus can be eaten raw, avoid overcooking so it continues to retain its nutritional value.

• This dish is so simple and tasty you don’t really need to pair it with anything else except a bowl of rice. Now eat your veggies, they’re good for you!

This article first appeared in butterkicap.com

Butterkicap is a food and culture platform and community that enables anyone to experience Malaysia through stories of her people, food and places.