Asparagus Fry — With Mustard Seeds and Coconut

A simple saute of asparagus that gets dressed up with Indian flavors.
A simple saute of asparagus that gets dressed up with Indian flavors.

Spring may signal bountiful flowers. But for me, first and foremost, it brings asparagus.

I can barely contain myself when the first spears start showing up at the farmers markets. Because from then on out, I eat my fill of those sweet, thick spears every week until they disappear all too rapidly at the end of their short season.

Asparagus aren’t often highlighted in Indian cooking. So, when I spied a recipe for “Asparagus Fry” flavored with chilies, mustard seeds, and shredded coconut, I was all in.

This quick and easy recipe is from the new “Mindful Indian Meals,” of which I received a review copy.

It’s by San Franciscan Shivangi Rao, a designer and product manager in the healthcare industry, who founded the blog, Raody Recipes.

Growing up, Rao was plagued by digestive and cognitive autoimmune illnesses, which even impacted her ability to walk at one point. She eventually learned that certain foods triggered her symptoms, which led her to eliminate them. The only problem was many of them were the beloved foods she had grown up with: Indian sweets made with refined sugar; lentils high in starch; and rice and roti, both high in simple carbohydrates.

So, she set out on a path to reclaim those flavors that are so integral to her family and culture.

The result was her blog and self-published cookbook, which features more than 70 paleo and gluten-free recipes that highlight both her Indian and Californian heritages.

Take a taste of everything from “Avocado Chaat Toast” (on grain-free bread) and “Sweet Potato Tikki Mac ‘n’ Cheese” (made with grain-free elbow macaroni) to “Indian Lamb Gyros with Masala Fries and Raita” (with grain-free tortillas standing in for the usual flatbread) and “Carrot Halwa Cupcakes” (made with almond flour).

Cabbage or green beans are often given this treatment in Indian cuisine. But Rao says asparagus is uncommon.
Cabbage or green beans are often given this treatment in Indian cuisine. But Rao says asparagus is uncommon.

In this asparagus dish, mustard seeds go into a hot pan to sizzle and bring out their aromatics. Rao didn’t specify whether to use yellow, brown or black mustard seeds, so you can probably use whichever you like. I went with yellow.

Dried chili peppers and garlic go into the hot pan next. I used thinly sliced green and white parts of green garlic just because I throw it into most everything at this time of year. Add the sliced asparagus and cook until tender yet still a little crisp. Finally, finish with the unsweetened grated coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The asparagus gain a gentle warmth from the mustard seeds and chilies, but not at all in a throat-searing way. The coconut adds a bit of texture and a modicum of sweetness.

The star remains the asparagus, with the flavorings adding a fun spin on one of spring’s greatest gifts.

There's no time like now to enjoy this asparagus dish.
There’s no time like now to enjoy this asparagus dish.

Asparagus Fry with Mustard Seeds and Coconut

(Serves 2 to 4)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

3 whole dried red chili peppers, halved

3 garlic cloves, grated or minced

1 bunch asparagus (approximately 1 pound), washed, dried, and chopped into 1-inch pieces (woody ends of stems chopped off)

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Melt the coconut oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds and let them temper in the hot oil for about 15 to 30 seconds, until they stop popping. Add the dried red chili peppers and garlic and fry for about 30 seconds, until browned and fragrant.

Add the asparagus and salt and gently saute for 5 to 10 minutes, until the asparagus is fork tender and vibrantly green in color. Add the coconut and lemon juice and toss well. Remove from heat.

Serve immediately.

From “Mindful Indian Meals” by Shivangi Rao

More Asparagus Recipes to Enjoy: Asparagus and Scrambled Egg Scattered Sushi

And: Spicy Ground Pork with Ginger, Lime, Peppers, and Asparagus

And: Shaved Asparagus Salad with Asparagus Buttermilk Dressing and Pickled Asparagus Tips

And: Asparagus in Coconut Cream Sauce

And: Asparagus Pastry Straws

And: Roasted Asparagus Gratin

And: Simmered Asparagus with Orange and Mint

And: Roasted Asparagus Soup with Pistachio Cream

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