You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, May 3, 2012 : 10:28 a.m.

Asparagus Tempura with Wasabi Dipping Sauce - recipe benefits from using local, in-season produce

By Peggy Lampman


Asparagus Tempura with Wasabi Dipping Sauce

Peggy Lampman | Contributor


The new dinnerFeed web site is a lean, 
mean fighting machine!

It’s asparagus season; when Michigan’s brave warriors thrust their helmeted heads through the dirt, hoping a late frost doesn’t blindside them. So my ammunition’s at-the-ready - a battery of recipes that will maximize the bounty through the middle of June.


Grated daikon and ginger for dipping sauce.

I can blanch, then wrap them in proscuitto; stuff them into an omelet; make a quickie flatbread pizza, purée them in a soup, make a spring green risotto, make a bread pudding, drizzle with Caesar dressing, use them in a stir fry or toss with morels and turn into a gratin… whew, I need to catch my breath.

Fresh asparagus is available year round but, for me, asparagus from Michigan soil has a brighter, fresher taste, and a crispier texture than off-shore imports. Purchasing asparagus from local farmers when the morning dew sweats their pointy little heads is a sweet treat, indeed. 

According to Extension Horticulture Specialist, Douglas Sanders, Michigan ranks with California and Washington State in the top-three U.S. asparagus-producing states; most of the commercial acreage located on the west-central part of the state in Oceana County, near Lake Michigan.

Look for firm, fresh, spears with closed, compact tips and uniform diameter, to ensure all spears will cook in the same amount of time. Asparagus will keep fresh for a few days. Place in a vase, as you would a bouquet of flowers, add water to cover stem ends and refrigerate.


Keep tempura batter cold and don't over stir.

Rakishly thin asparagus, those first to hit the market stalls, may be eaten raw or need no more than a five to ten second blanch in well-salted water. Enjoy by themselves or, perhaps, served with a Caesar and Hollandaise dipping sauce. But today I present you with a recipe for their big brothers and sisters, the thicker, meatier asparagus that can handle a batter and sizzling oil.

There is an art behind making good tempura, which should be made just prior to eating. According to wikipedia, “Tempura batter is traditionally mixed in small batches using chopsticks for only a few seconds, leaving lumps in the mixture that, along with the cold batter temperature, result in the unique fluffy and crisp tempura structure when cooked.”

Overmixing of the batter will result in activation of wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become chewy and dough-like when fried. To keep my batter cold, I place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes.


To minimize the spattering when making tempura, be sure the vegetables are dry before you coat them in batter. Fry only a few pieces at a time to prevent them from sticking together.

The award-winning documentary “Asparagus! Stalking the American Life”, which New York Magazine called, “Oddly Brilliant,” is a must-see for locavores and asparagus lovers. The documentary, set in Oceana County, offers a behind-the-red-carpet glimpse of the “Miss Asparagus” Pageant and interviews with farmers about their trials to compete with factory farms and off-shore industries. This recipe would be the perfect nosh for watching the film.

Yield: 16-22 thick asparagus stalks
Time: 45 minutes

Recipe for Wasabi Tempura Dipping Sauce

1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon wasabi
1/2 tablespoon ginger, grated
1 tablespoons daikon radish, grated
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Recipe for Tempura Asparagus* (recipe follows)

Directions for Wasabi Tempura Dipping Sauce

1. Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, and wasabi.
2. Stir in ginger, daikon and scallions.

*Make prior to tempura. Recipe keeps several days, refrigerated.

Ingredients for Tempura Asparagus

1/2 cup tempura flour, white rice flour, or white wheat flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg white, beaten
1/2 cups ice cold soda (seltzer) water
1 1/2 -2 pounds medium to thick width asparagus, tough ends trimmed and saved for soup stock, if desired
Neutral tasting high heat frying oil,such as peanut or grapeseed oil, as required.
Wasabi Tempura Dipping Sauce (recipe above)

Directions for Tempura Asparagus

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, corn starch, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gently stir in egg white and slowly stir in soda. The mixture should be slightly lumpy but easy to stir; it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when lifted. Season generously with kosher salt to taste.*
2. In a large fry pan, place enough oil so it’s 1- 1 1/2-inches deep. Heat until oil sizzles in a bit of tempura batter. Coat asparagus in batter, shaking off excess batter. In batches not over-crowding pan, fry until asparagus is golden-brown on all sides, about 4-5 minutes, turning with tongs. Drain on paper towels and serve with dipping sauce.



Fri, May 4, 2012 : 1:09 p.m.

Tempura anything = great. Anything with wasabi sauce = great. If you're doing tempura veggies also try green beans, broccoli and our favorite - yams.

Peggy Lampman

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

I agree, Brad. And I can't forget the seafood - my absolute favorite tempura recipe is for tempura oysters - available at many sushi restaurants. To die for! Peggy

Jessica Webster

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

I love vegetable tempura, especially the asparagus. Thanks for the tasty recipe, Peggy!

say it plain

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

Though, I must say, the *wasabi* part of your equation here is a very good idea! I'm feeling like this extra-sweet and mild but balanced with earthiness local aspargus goes very nicely with some Asian spice and/or heat indeed!

Peggy Lampman

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

Thanks for that! I'm a big fan of wasabi in many Asian-styled vinaigrettes and marinades.

say it plain

Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

Seriously, to the fried-food masses! For horrors! Shame on you, to your allegedly ann-arbor-representing core! Besides, the local asparagus ... IS SO GOOD... right now, all you need do it saute the stuff lightly or bake it or steam it or how ever you like to consume your greens (look ma! no tanned browned bits lol!), and MMMM... Lovely stuff! I've been ruined for the Peruvian and Californian now :-)

Peggy Lampman

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

Indeed the local asparagus is so so good. I'll be at the Farmers Market tomorrow loading up my bag! (so sweet when the morning dew coats their little helmet heads!)


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Now you food writers have even turned asparagus brown. What's with all of the brown and tan food!

Peggy Lampman

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:13 p.m.

I love green too!


Thu, May 3, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

Another example of how to take a healthful food and convert it into something fried, carbo filled and unhealthy!---though, to be fair, it SOUNDS delicious!

Peggy Lampman

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

Thanks for the comment. I know, I know - I also love fried chicken when I know poached chicken is so much healthier! Peggy