Spring is the best season for asparagus here in America and the reason why I look forward to this vegetable this time of year. I had a large bundle so I cooked this Asparagus Beef Stir Fry for dinner. Asparagus are available year round in our local groceries but there’s something about those I buy in the spring that enhances any dish and makes it more magical.
But what many are not aware of is that Filipino immigrant workers were the backbone of asparagus farming as well as other crops cultivated on the west coast of the United States.
“Ode to Asparagus as the month ends. You are a special crop that grows best on loose peat soil and for many decades harvested by the hard working Filipino immigrants whose earnings for asparagus picking, hauling and commercial packing was the fuel of their own American dream – a car, a home, education for children.” — Elena Buensalido Mangahas, Filipino American National Historical Society.
When we lived in the Philippines, my culinary experience with asparagus was limited to the canned white spears, the only ones available then. I had no idea that hardworking Filipino migrant workers in Stockton, California were likely the harvesters of this vegetable.
It was the same for most Filipinos years ago when asparagus was an ingredient specified in a recipe and we were limited to the canned varieties. Back in the Philippines, knowledge about the Filipino migrant farm hands in the States were not well known to my generation. But the time has come to let the world know those long, smooth, silky spears on your table were carefully nurtured, harvested and packed by Filipinos on the west coast.
These days, via Instagram, I see weekend farmers’ markets in Manila selling asparagus and I’m glad for that. The green ones I find here in America range from pencil-thin to thick in stem width. I choose the in-between medium-wide ones. But back in my American kitchen, I stared at my refrigerator. I had beef slices and I had asparagus. I knew right away a good stir fry would be best and meant a quick cooking time. I was right. In no time, my skillet yielded one of the most gorgeous, intensely luscious aromas of sweet-savory beef strips that blended well with the earthy-flavored crisp spears. I tossed it together just once more and served it with a bowl of garlic fried rice.
Today, I was reminded it was Pay It Forward Day — a day to show kindness without expecting a return. A day to make a difference in someone’s life. Doing something kind should not be confined to merely 24 hours. When we cook and nourish our families daily, we’re paying it forward for the ones we love every single day. For me, the best feeling about Pay It Forward Day is when I make everyone around the table smile after a hearty meal like this. With gratitude to the Manongs, the harvesters of vegetables…I am able to do this for my family.
Asparagus-Beef Stir Fry
- 1 pound beef sirloin or skirt steak sliced in 2-inch thin strips
- 1/2 cup thick soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon shao xing rice wine
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 whole onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 piece red bell pepper sliced, seeded
- 1/2 cup water
- 10 pieces fresh asparagus sliced in 2-inch strips
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
- 2 stalks scallions chopped, for garnish
- for serving steamed rice
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced beef with the soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine and sesame oil. Toss to blend well. Marinate the beef in this mixture for 30 minutes, covered in the refrigerator.In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add the vegetable oil. Stir-fry the onions, garlic and bell pepper strips for 1 to 2 minutes till soft.Add the marinated beef strips to the skillet. Pour water into the mixture.Add the asparagus slices to the beef in the skillet. Season with salt and black pepper. Toss it around. Cover and continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes till beef and vegetables are cooked and tender.Garnish with scallions. Serve warm with rice.
- Cook's comments: You can substitute the meat with chicken or pork tenderloin strips in the same amount and cooking time. It is just as delightful.
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