The taste of Spring

Posted on May 17, 2006 by Aun

S’s phone beeped. The text message read, “Are you in town?” Just a few seconds after she replied in the affirmative, her phone rang. It was M. He’d just come back from a business trip to Germany and was brimming with enthusiasm. “I have something for you and your hubby. But you have to pick it up today or tomorrow.” Not wanting to spoil the surprise, he wouldn’t tell her much more than that. “Come pick it up as soon as possible.”

So, after picking me up from work just a few hours later, I found myself walking into the building where M’s office is located. Coincidentally, I ran into the mystery man himself, waiting for an elevator. With a huge smile (and I could have sworn a couple of chuckles), he very energetically shook my hand and ushered me into his office. “I have something really special for you. Better than truffles.” He strode straight to a large, gleaming refrigerator, opened it, reached inside and pulled out a small, long package, wrapped in paper and plastic. Grinning from ear to ear, he told me, “I got these fresh from a farm for you and S.”

White asparagus. No other vegetable connotes a beautiful European Spring than white asparagus. Delicate when steamed to perfection and delicious with just about anything–although many purists will argue that it’s best with nothing more than a spot of freshly made Hollandaise–this lovely vegetable is very hard to find fresh in my part of the world and when it is available, it’s ludicrously expensive. Being given a whole bundle was certainly a rare treat.

The asparagus M gave us were beautiful. They were big, firm, and full of flavor. S and I decided to cook them that same night. We quickly came up with 4 small courses. The first was the simplest and in some ways the best. It was a simple plate of steamed asparagus, served ice cold with some Japanese mayonnaise and some Hollandaise sauce. Our second course was steamed asparagus served under some grilled and oozing Tallegio. Our third course was steamed asparagus plated with some wonderful, slightly spicy, deboned oxtail stew that an Indonesian chef-friend of S’s had given us. The last course was a pasta with asparagus that was first steamed then sautéed in brown butter, served with truffle oil and freshly grated Parmesan.

It was a wonderful and delicious gift. I doubt I’ll ever be as thoughtful as M. I just can’t imagine hand carrying back such delicate treats for anyone other than myself. But you can bet I’m extremely thankful S and I have friends who will.

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About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. J May 17, 2006 at 10:00 am

    hiya, it was all super-delicious – like you’ve said, the very essence of spring. thanks so much for sharing your precious stash, and for lavishing so much care on not 1, not 2, but 4 courses! the miniaturist in me is awestruck ;)also, for a taste of that divine oxtail

  2. Amanda & Debbie May 17, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Enjoyed reading your story. We have never tasted white asparagus, how does it differ from the green variety?

  3. lol May 17, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Honestly,I don’t find white asparagus that special…maybe slightly tastier and less fibrous than green asparagus, but certainly so much more expensive tt I wouldn’t really hanker that much for it!

  4. Anonymous May 17, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    Thought I saw Goodwood Park serving white asparagus.

  5. Anonymous May 17, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    during the season, german market place in bukit timah road flies them in. im sure other gourmet supermakets also fly them in.

  6. Anonymous May 18, 2006 at 1:37 am

    Oh, lovely!

    Funny how I actually visited your site last Friday for some cooking ideas cos I also received a handful of white and green asparaguses. Guess I was a tad too early.

    The Germans are crazy about Spargel. White asparagus is available between March till mid June at farmers’ markets, supermarkets and even on roadside booth where I live for around S$10.00-S$14.00/kg. Envious? Don’t be, cos I miss Durians :P

    lilybakescookies

  7. Oliver May 18, 2006 at 2:11 am

    Hi Aun, What coincidence, we just had that conversation with friends from the US. White asparagus vs. green ones and how they are considered special in certain parts of the world. Well just like other foods from remote origins, it’s a matter of demand and supply (and good friends). Now that they’re in season here you can’t walk in a restaurant without white asparagus all over the menu.
    Not quite as crucial as for wine/grapes, but still making a big difference, is the growing area. Luckily they’re are all pretty close by, reachable within an hour. Tonight Nicky brought home Abensberger Spargel, which was delicious. Yes, I fully agree it doesn’t need much to go with, perhaps a bit Hollandaise, prosciutto and a few new potatoes…

  8. Culinary Hag May 18, 2006 at 2:52 am

    Hi there – I’m a relatively new devotee of your blog. I’ve been reading you for about 6 months now and HAD to say thanks for sharing! All 4 courses sounded divine and looked even better.

    Cheers
    The Other Hag

  9. Anonymous May 18, 2006 at 10:18 am

    my goodness, i didn’t know white asparagus was so rare until i read your blog! i ate this during my visit to Prague in March and i just gobble down! ohhhh mine…

    Cannes

  10. Nico May 18, 2006 at 11:19 am

    Nice post, and as always, great pictures! White asparagus are also considered a delicacy in Belgium, where it is rather popular. Most people eat it simple, ‘a la Flamande’ (Flanders is the dutch speaking part of Belgium). The asparagus are served with a butter-parsley-and-crumbled-hardboiled-egg sauce. Here are two recipes, in the first the diners make their own sauce, in the second, the sauce is made in advance and draped on the plate:

    http://frenchfood.about.com/od/vegetablessidedishes/r/aspflamande.htm
    http://www.epicurien.be/epicurien/recette.asp?fil=253

  11. gastrochick May 18, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    it is the green asparagus that is prized over here in London, which has a very short season from May to June. Personally i like both varieties, the white has a more subtle flavour, I am off to Spain on Saturday so will stock up on tins of it.

  12. Sherry May 18, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    I had white asparagus for the first time in early April when my boyfriend and I were at El Bulli – I can’t honestly say that I’m a fan.

  13. mae May 18, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    All the 4 mini courses you prepared sounds deliciously creative. I haven’t tried white asparagus before, do they taste different from the sweet, nutty green ones? Just curious.

  14. boo_licious May 19, 2006 at 5:16 am

    Great stuff! Very drool worthy. I just read Flavours magazine and wanted to double check if you wrote the Spore Gourmet article? Not too sure as I’m not familiar with yr full name.

  15. NARDAC May 19, 2006 at 6:26 am

    ahhh… the season is over now. I’ve been pigging out on them for the last month. The best way I found serve them was quite simply with a mimosa (finely minced boiled egg with green onions). I mixed the mimosa with a touch of roasted crushed hazelnuts and sprinkled fleur du sel when I served it to my in-laws, just for show.

    Btw, I love both green and white, but living in Paris, it’s often easier to find the white than the green. I find the green to be much more subtle and gentle than the green, which is can be pared with stronger things like roasted garlic.

    Love your blog, btw.

  16. NARDAC May 19, 2006 at 6:27 am

    oops… that’s the white that’s more subtle than the green.

  17. Chubby Hubby May 19, 2006 at 10:31 am

    J: Most welcome. William Wongso’s oxtail was awesome, eh?

    Amanda & Debbie: Experts claim that the white is more subtle, more delicate and more tender (when cooked).

    Lol: I agree that it’s too expensive. I’m not one to buy it too often myself. Of course, when someone gives it to me…

    Anonymous: Yah, most Western restaurants now import it when the season starts. But they then charge a lot of it.

    Anonymous: Yah, a couple do now. But again, it’s an issue of price.

    Lilybakescookies: hah hah… I’d happily airfreight you all the durians you want for an equal volume of white asparagus. :-)

    Oliver: Agree completely. It’s very much a supply and demand issue. When I was a student in Vienna, I bought a mangosteen for a friend at the Naschmarkt because she had never had one. Damn thing cost me almost US$5!

    Culinary Hag: Thanks so much.

    Cannes: You lucky devil.

    Nico: Yum. That sounds super-delicious. Eggs are the perfecy accompaniment for asparagus. I was really upset once when I attended a food competition and some snide judge scored a chef down on one of her dishes, commenting loudly that eggs and asparagus don’t go together.

    Gastrochick: Oh, you lucky thing! Have a great time in Spain. Hmmmmm… maybe we should start globalblogging by mail so I can convince you to send me some of your loot.

    Sherry: Sigh… I have yet to go to El Bulli. I am very jealous.

    Mae: Hi, thanks. It’s a lot more delicate and much more tender.

    Boo_licious: Nope. Haven’t ever written for Flavours. What was the name of the author who wrote the story?

    Nardac: Oh, to live in Paris and visit fresh markets daily… sigh. Your recipe sounds great. I’ll have to try that the next time a kind soul passes me some more white asparagus. :-)

  18. Hijackqueen May 19, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Whao! Never know there is white asparagus.

  19. tabehodai May 20, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    oh white asparagus, it’s the first time i hear about them. did u have them all in one go? they look really yum. i’m gonna look around the stores here to see if i can find any.

    i’m often guilty of lugging food back from trips. but now that i’m living away from home, i lug prized food from sg :p

  20. Felix May 20, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Hubby,
    I live near Frankfurt, and at this time of the year we eat asparagus in all kind of varieties.
    My favorite ones are very simple:
    - cooked and then served with ham and young potatoes (a small piece of butter on top)
    - as a salad with oil & vinegar and chopped chives
    Cheers,
    Felix

  21. Anonymous May 21, 2006 at 12:50 am

    I heard Freshdirect Singapore is importing these in.

  22. NARDAC May 23, 2006 at 5:58 am

    I don’t visit fresh markets daily but I have sourced out my local sellers very well. I just don’t have the time to do the market thing… busy social schedule and all.

    The big down side of Paris is eating anything other than French/Moroccan food. Had a terrible Korean restaurant experience today. But since I feasted on fresh seafood in Normandy all weekend, plus excellent wine, I really have nothing to complain about.

  23. Bill Belew May 24, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    Your’s must be the fourth or fifth food blog I have come across extolling the virtues of the white asparagus. I had never even heard of it until this Spring, but now I’m wondering if I should nick your dish ideas and try it out for myself!

  24. wanida October 29, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    today i saw white asparagus at the market for 2 cad bucks and i remembered your post gushing about them, i bought a bunch to try them out! :)

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