My favorite way to prepare asparagus is to roast them. It is easy to prepare and it’s pretty hands off in terms of cooking. For a full meal, you can roast the asparagus alongside root vegetables. Then, cook tofu, shrimp, or chicken for a side of protein. Alternatively, you can serve it as a side with any of my rice or noodle dishes. Usually, I roast asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, along with lemon zest (see the full roasted asparagus recipe here).
Recently, I’ve been reminiscing about traveling in Asia and remembered a chili crab dish that I ate in Hong Kong 10 years ago. My friend and I split a huge plate of stir fried crab topped with a mountain of fried garlic and chili peppers. Inspired by the memories of this delectable chili crab, I decided to pile a bunch of roasted garlic and chili crisp over roasted asparagus.
The preparation is simple: roast asparagus, fry minced garlic, and top asparagus with fried garlic and Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp. This chili garlic roasted asparagus is great when you don’t have much time to prepare dinner, and you want to whip up something special in a pinch.
A NOTE ABOUT LAO GAN MA
Lao Gan Ma, 老干妈 (simplified), 老乾媽 (traditional), is an iconic brand of chili sauce that you’ll find in many Chinese families’ pantries. The phrase “lao gan ma” translates to “old godmother” in English, and it refers to the founder, Tao Huabi, 陶华碧 (simplified), 陶華碧 (traditional).
In the late-1980s, Tao Huabi ran a noodle shop, and served her hot sauce as a condiment. That condiment proved to be very popular. By the 1990s, she began mass producing the chili sauce, which has been sold widely in China and all over the world. In an attempt to replicate the success of Lao Gan Ma, many food companies have also created their own versions of the chili sauce.
There are many varieties of Lao Gan Ma chili sauce, but my favorite is the spicy chili crisp. It contains crushed chili peppers, onions, soybeans, and spices. What makes the hot sauce distinct is the crispy texture of the ingredients, which add a pleasant crunch to any dish. To me, the chili crisp is mildly spicy, but other people may disagree!
HOW TO MAKE CHILI & GARLIC ROASTED ASPARAGUS
HOW TO PICK ASPARAGUS
The first step to making a good roasted asparagus dish is picking the right asparagus. When you’re shopping for asparagus, look for spears of medium thickness, about 1/2 inches thick. For this recipe, I find pencil thin asparagus isn’t substantial enough and very chunky asparagus can be too stringy.
Next, look at the bottoms of the spears. Try to avoid bunches of asparagus with spears that have dry or woody bottoms. Ideally, the tips of the spears should be pointed and tight (i.e., it shouldn’t look like it’s blooming).
I like to snap off the bottoms of the asparagus. Each spear has a natural breaking point that separates the fresh part of the asparagus from the drier part. If the bottom of the spear looks dry and shriveled, I’ll snap the asparagus right above that point. If there’s a section that’s white or purple, I’ll snap it right above that section too as it tends to be tough. Alternatively, if the spear looks very fresh, I’ll snap very little off the bottom.
Then, give the asparagus a rinse and dry them with a towel.
Grab a baking sheet and spread the asparagus over the baking sheet in a single layer. Next, drizzle a tiny bit of oil over the spears and rub the oil over the asparagus with your hands. Then, sprinkle a small pinch of salt and bake them at 400ºF for 8 to 9 minutes. If you’re roasting thicker spears, roast them for 10 to 11 minutes; roast pencil thin spears for 7 to 8 minutes.
Mince several cloves of garlic. I usually mince 4 large cloves of garlic, which should yield about 3 to 4 tablespoons of minced garlic.
Then, drizzle some oil in a skillet and fry the garlic over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir constantly to keep the garlic from burning. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt over the garlic too. Once most of the garlic takes on a light golden color, turn off the heat and transfer the garlic to a bowl immediately. You don’t want to leave the garlic in the pan as the garlic will continue browning and can burn, leading to bitter garlic.
FINISH GARLIC ROASTED ASPARAGUS
Transfer the roasted asparagus to a serving plate. I like drizzling a bit of hot sesame oil over the asparagus for some spicy nutty flavor but that’s optional. Finally, spread the fried garlic and Lao Gan Ma chili crisp over the roasted asparagus.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CHILI GARLIC ROASTED ASPARAGUS
- Jasmine Rice
- Egg Fried Rice
- Teriyaki Tofu
- Sweet Chili Shrimp
- Sticky Chicken Thighs
- You can find more rice dishes or noodle dishes here.
Chili Crisp & Garlic Roasted Asparagus
- 1 pound asparagus, (medium thickness, about 1/2-inch in diameter, see note 1)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (see note 2)
- pinch of salt
- 3 to 4 tablespoons minced garlic (about 4 large cloves)
- hot sesame oil (optional)
- Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF (205ºC). Position an oven rack to the center position.
- Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus, particularly the dry and woody parts or the white/purple parts.
- Rinse the asparagus and pat dry with a cloth. Transfer the asparagus to a large baking sheet. There’s no need to line the sheet pan.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the asparagus. Rub and roll the spears around so that they are covered in oil. Spread the spears so that they are lined up in a single layer.
- Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the asparagus. Roast the asparagus for 8 to 9 minutes. If the asparagus are pencil thin, roast them for 6 to 7 minutes. For the chunky asparagus that are about 1 inch thick on the bottom, roast them for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly to keep the garlic from burning. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt. Once most of the garlic looks very lightly golden, turn off the heat and transfer the garlic to a bowl immediately. Don’t leave the garlic in the pan as the garlic will continue to brown and might even burn. Burnt garlic tastes bitter.
- Transfer the asparagus to a serving plate. Drizzle some hot sesame oil over the asparagus, if desired. Then, top with the fried garlic. If it’s looking like too much garlic for you, feel free to save it and eat with rice or any other dish like congee or vegan congee. Then, spoon some Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp over the asparagus. I usually use about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the chili crisp, but feel free to add more.
- See blog post for more info about how to pick asparagus.
- I like using olive oil because it’s convenient for me, but any oil works.