Vietnamese Creamy Asparagus and Crabmeat Soup

Asparagus might not appear to be a vegetable associated with any type of South-Eastern Asian cuisine but the Vietnamese have adopted it. Here we have what these countrymen call the Western bamboo. This was a vegetable brought by the French who used it in their own brand of cuisine. It took a little why for it to become accepted in IndoChina as it was then. In this example it is combined with crabmeat in a style which only the Vietnamese could master.

Ingredients:

  • 300g/8½ oz asparagus spears – younger the better. Remove the woody sections of these spears: about one third.
  • 1 litre chicken stock. You can use chicken stock cubes – about 2 or 3 dissolved in hot water.
  • 2-3 shallots
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 80g/3 oz crabmeat which has been cooked.
  • 1-2 tsp cooking oil – maize or sunflower
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed or finely chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ – 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed into a slurry of 2 or 3 tablespoons of water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • garnish of finely cut coriander/cilantro leaves and/or cut spring onion stems

Preparation:

  1. Cut the asparagus spears with the top fleshy part as the main piece and the bottom section cut into sections.
  2. Heat a saucepan of half the chicken stock and cook the lower sections of asparagus on a high heat then on a simmer for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and discard the cooking water. 
  3. Cut these asparagus spears into short lengths and reserve for later.
  4. In a wok or skillet, heat the frying oil on a medium heat. Stir-fry shallots, onions if used and garlic for just 2 minutes max. to soften and turn slightly golden.
  5. Add asparagus to this wok to heat up, then the crab meat and mix in well.
  6. Heat up the mixture, add the remaining stock, sugar and fish sauce along with the onions and garlic. Mix well and keep stirring.
  7. Reduce heat finally to a medium. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until the soup is thickening.
  8. Season with black pepper and salt. Add the beaten egg slowly but stir as gently as possible.
  9. Take off the heat and serve in soup bowls. Add a garnish of coriander leaves and/or cut spring greens.
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