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Tips and tricks for cooking with asparagus

The asparagus season has finally begun. Depending on the weather, asparagus harvesting begins sometime in the last fortnight of April and continues until St. John’s Day on 24 June. Asparagus doesn’t just taste great in the traditional way with hollandaise sauce: it also makes a delicious duo with soy sauce. We’ve put together some tasty asparagus recipes. If you follow our tips on how to prepare it properly, then nothing can go wrong when you cook it.

1. Buying it

The quality of asparagus can vary considerably. You’ll realise this when you go shopping. Asparagus tastes best when it’s harvested in the morning and cooked the same day. Of course, this requires you to buy produce from your local region, during asparagus season. The old rule of thumb is, “Pick it in the morning – eat it for lunch”. You’ll know asparagus is fresh if the ends are still slightly moist and you can squeeze a little juice out of them. If it’s not fresh anymore, it will give off a musty juice smell.  Raw, fresh asparagus stalks are firm and not discoloured – as are the tips. When you rub fresh asparagus stalks together, they should squeak.

2. Storing it

Asparagus must be stored in a cool, damp, dark place – so preferably in the fridge. If you wrap it in a damp cloth and place it in a plastic bag, it will stay fresh for two to three days. If the asparagus has already been peeled, you can store it in exactly the same way, but it will only keep for a day.

3. Peeling it

Before you peel the asparagus, rinse it under cold running water to remove any residual sand. Then peel it using an asparagus peeler – or you can use a regular vegetable peeler. Always peel white and purple asparagus from top to bottom. Put the stick of asparagus on your lower arm and hold it tightly at the top with your fingers. Start peeling around 0.5 to 1 cm below the asparagus tip. Make sure that you peel evenly around the entire stem and cut off the ends. You don't usually need to peel green asparagus. However, you will have to remove residual sand and cut off the ends. If the green asparagus is a little older, it’s a good idea to carefully peel the lower half.

4. Cooking it

When you cook asparagus, make sure it is only just covered with water so that none of its valuable vitamins and minerals are lost. Add approximately ½ tbsp. naturally brewed soy sauce for each litre of water. Neutralise the asparagus’s bitterness by adding a pinch of sugar or a few pieces of white bread to the cooking water. You will need slightly more sugar for green asparagus. And don't forget to add a little butter to refine the flavour. If you bring the cooking water to the boil before adding the asparagus, it will take between 10 and 25 minutes to cook depending on how thick the sticks are. Green asparagus usually only takes between 5 and 8 minutes, also depending on the size. You can use a sharp knife to check whether the asparagus is properly cooked. It should glide into the asparagus with a slight resistance.

5. Serving it

Asparagus is traditionally served with ingredients such as boiled potatoes, raw or cooked ham, pork or beef fillet, veal, or fish, with hollandaise or béarnaise sauce. It also tastes great with melted butter and a dash of soy sauce. In fact, Kikkoman’s naturally brewed soy sauce is the perfect seasoning for this “vegetable of kings” in a whole range of tasty recipes. Try them for yourself.