In the weeks since I began writing my thesis, I stopped being interested in cooking. It happens to the best of us, I suppose: Suddenly, there is no thrill to be gotten out of taking out the pots and pans, and grabbing take-out becomes a regular means of procuring nourishment. After doing this for several weeks, I decided that it was high time I got back in the kitchen, and as of yesterday, I decided that I am not going to eat out for one month. (Exceptions include special occasions, like my cousin's wedding in two weeks, and if someone else is paying.)
So I began cooking again by whipping up what has become sort of a go-to dish for me: Andrea Nguyen's asparagus and shiitake stir-fry. I first ate this last year at a house where I was doing child care; the dad was test-driving the recipe for the author. He made it using yard-long beans instead of asparagus, and the fact that I actually wanted to eat string beans when they were prepared this way assured me that this was an excellent recipe. (This was also how I first heard about Nguyen's book.) I've since made it myself a number of times, using both beans and asparagus, and I once turned it into a main dish by throwing some tofu in. This morning, I made a light lunch of it by putting it over rice and topping the whole thing with a fried egg.
Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom Stir-Fry
Man Tay Xao Nam Huong
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces
6 to 8 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstitued (Nguyen recommends soaking them overnight, but I put them in hot water for 15 to 30 minutes, and they turn out fine) and cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp canola oil
1-1/2 tbsp water
In a large pot filled with salted, boiling water, parboil the asparagus for one minute. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Mix the last five ingredients together to make the sauce.
In a large skillet, heat 1-1/2 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add asparagus and mushrooms and stir-fry for about 3 min. Stir sauce, then add to the pan, stirring to distribute evenly. Cook for another minute, until only a little sauce is visible.