Japanese asparagus with pounded sesame sauce

Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 2
Japanese asparagus with pounded sesame sauce
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
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Spring always brings plenty of young asparagus, pencil-thin with bright green stems. But too many dishes cover up the fresh taste of the asparagus with a fattening sauce.

This simple, Japanese-style soy dressing is flavored with toasted sesame seeds rather than oil and uses mirin, a sweet rice wine found in Japanese and gourmet markets.

Steaming the asparagus also keeps the fat away. It’s best to cook asparagus within a day or two of purchase. Store asparagus in the refrigerator until using. Set it in a glass of water so that the ends are covered, just like a bunch of flowers.


Snap or cut off the tough ends of the asparagus spears. If the asparagus spears are thick, use a vegetable peeler to peel the lower 2/3 of the stalk. Place the asparagus in a steamer basket over boiling water. Cover and steam until the spears are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes.


Place the sesame seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat until they turn light brown and become aromatic, 1 minute. Watch carefully; they tend to brown quickly. Crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle.


Combine the seeds with the soy sauce, mirin, sugar and lemon juice. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and pour the sesame sauce over the top.