Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dry-shrimp and turmeric-flavored asparagus rice bowl

I am currently at the LAX international airport, and, for the first time, I am actually early and have time to wait by the gate and do things. More weirdly, days of studying alone with bags of potato chips on my crumbs-peppered memory foam has made me enjoy the surrounding bustling sirens of the LA and multi-lingual conversations a lot more than I normally do. Armed with two big chocolate chip cookie chips from Starbucks, free airport Wi-Fi, and a change of scenery, I am currently feeling unstoppable. One of my funny habits is that I tend to gain intense motivation to get things done, only when I have nothing to do. The lack of exams to study for naturally diverts my energy to my other love, my blog lime and cilantro.

Speaking of love, this Burmese style asparagus with a soft-boiled egg is perfect match both for their personality and attractiveness. Asparagus is considered the crown of the vegetables in Myanmar. Whenever we get a hold of something that valuable, we treat it like a queen. One of my aunts has really perfected this asparagus recipe. Asparaguses back in Myanmar are thicker and more fibrous. So, my aunt would give them a good whack with her stocky bare hands to break down those fibers, before quickly stir-frying with turmeric and dry shrimp powder. You have got to love those powerful women in your life, who somehow managed to inspire you to be better both physically and intellectually.

You are probably thinking right now how in this culinary hell asparagus, turmeric and dry shrimp make good combinations. But, let me convince you in a next few sentences that it works and it tastes extremely delicious. Dry shrimps, when fried, not only perfumes the oil with their umami-rich aroma but also crisp up to become salty heavenly almost-bacon bits. The turmeric, besides being a gorgeous golden food dye, adds a light touch of exotic flare. Combination of the two creates a very unique flavor profile, sentimental enough to evoke nostalgia in those who grew up with this and powerful enough to induce desires in those who are new. Life that cannot give enough times to appreciate the good old days or strong enough faith to expect better experiences may be a peaceful one, but rarely a colorful one. I know I would rather live in Technicolor, so I happily indulged in my ability to be dramatic.

I hope I do justice to my aunt’s recipe and the asparagus itself in this recipe. Fortunately, asparaguses in the U.S. are rather thin and tender that I will not need to use the brute force as my aunt did. For garnish, I went straight for big guns, such as chopped cashew nuts and soft-boiled eggs. There is something primeval about garnishing with eggs on vegetable dishes. When you poke open the egg and the yolk starts to do what it is supposed to do to those greens, you know your world will be a better place for the next five to ten minutes.


  • 0.5 lbs. of asparagus (cut into 1 ½ inch length)
  • ¾ cup of coarsely chopped shrimp powder
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • Two cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • A dash of brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper to adjust the taste
  • Eggs and cashew for garnish


  • Remove the bottom fibrous part of the asparagus. Let the physics and asparagus tell you where the fibrous part is. While holding the asparagus piece in the middle, snap the fibrous bottom part from the other hand, and the asparagus should divide at the intersection of the tender and the fibrous part.
  • Now to the main ingredient of this dish, dry shrimps, You can buy dry shrimp in almost all Asian grocery stores. Buy smaller ones with no shells for easy grinding. I like my shrimp powder with some texture, so I don’t grind it all the way until they become all powdery. You can use blender, food processor or spice grinder to get the job done.
  • Now we are ready to stir-fry. In a frying pan, heat up the oil under medium-high. Put in shrimp powder and garlic, and fry until the shrimp start to crisp up (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Add in turmeric, and let it infuse into the oil for a minute.
  • Turn up the heat to high. Add in asparagus, fish sauce, and sugar. Let it cook until asparagus are tender (about 10 minutes).
  • In the mean time, make a soft-boil egg. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, and boil the egg for exactly 7 minutes. Make sure to use the appropriate pan so that the water completely immerses the egg. After 7-minute of being boiled, plunge the egg under cold running tap water. Peel, and you will see a glorious soft-boiled egg.
  • Serve the asparagus and egg over the rice. Garnish with cashew nuts for texture.

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