White Asparagus Salad Recipe (Goi Mang)
Traditional Vietnamese cooking is widely known for its healthy properties and for the freshness of the ingredients. The food is simply prepared with very easy cooking techniques, which is great if you’re in a rush.
Gơi măng tây (which literally translates to "French bamboo shoots" in Vietnamese) is a typical Vietnamese salad that embodies these qualities. What are French bamboo shoots you ask? Asparagus! Fresh white asparagus are available at my local market, so I decided to use them in this dish. They provide a different texture for this type of raw salad. It's a bit more work than cooking green ones, as white asparagus have to be carefully peeled for optimum tenderness.
Yields: 6 servings1 (16-ounce) bunch thin, young white asparagus
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
juice of 4 limes, freshly squeezed
2 cloves pickled garlic (or fresh garlic), crushed and finely minced
2 tablespoons Vietnamese pickled shallots (see tips), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons ponzu soy sauce, to taste
1 red Thai bird chile, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons Thai basil, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons cilantro, coarsely chopped
Prepping the white asparagus: Trim about 1 inch from the root of the asparagus if necessary (depending on how young they are). Using a vegetable peeler (see tips), peel the asparagus, then cut them into long, thin strips. Be very gentle, white asparagus are very delicate and can break easily. Combine them all in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt (salt draws out moisture) and 1 teaspoon sugar. Toss well. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh colander. Discard the liquid. Pat dry with paper towels.
Making gỏi sauce (salad dressing):
In a bowl, dissolve the remaining sugar in 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Let the water cool to room temperature.
Add the lime juice and soy sauce. Mix in the garlic and red Thai chile.
Pat dry the asparagus one more time.
Add the gỏi dressing. To make sure the salad isn't drenched in dressing, add a few tablespoons at a time until the desired dressing to asparagus ratio is reached. Toss thoroughly. Set aside for about 5 minutes. Drain and discard about half of the liquid; otherwise the salad will be too watery.
When you're ready to serve, add the chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Toss well. Sprinkle with white pepper.
Thai basil has an earthier flavor than regular sweet basil. It also has darker vein markings on the leaves. It's commonly used in Asian salads, Vietnamese chicken salad and also in spring rolls (gỏi cuốn in Vietnamese).
To prevent the basil from bruising and darkening, tear the leaves with your fingers at the very last minute, then toss them into the salad and serve immediately.
You can use fresh garlic instead of the pickled garlic but the garlic flavor is going to be a lot stronger. You can find pickled garlic in any Asian store.
I've become addicted to the Messermeister vegetable peeler. I think it's the best utensil for cutting vegetables into thin, linguine-like bands.September 20, 2011.