Asparagus with Miso Dressing (Karashi Sumisoae) is a perfect dish to welcome spring! Blanched and shocked in iced water, asparagus offers a fresh, crisp, and tender texture. It’s optional but a touch of Japanese karashi mustard adds a bold surprise to the simple dressing.
Asparagus really is the star of the show in April. When you see the gloriously green spears showing up at your farmers market or local grocery stores, you know this is the best time to enjoy them.
What I love most about asparagus is it’s effortlessly beautiful and incredibly easy to work with. Today I’ll show you a classic yet simple Japanese preparation – Asparagus with Miso Dressing (Karashi Sumisoae) (アスパラガスの辛子酢味噌和え).
Here, the fresh taste of spring contrasts with an appealing sauce; it couldn’t be more enjoyable.
What is Karashi Sumisoae
Sumisoae (酢味噌和え) [su (vinegar)/miso/ae] is a dish that ingredient(s) is/are dressed with vinegar (su, 酢) and miso-based sauce. The sauce is typically made with miso, rice vinegar, sugar.
In this recipe, I added karashi (Japanese hot mustard), so we’ll be making Karashi Sumisoae (辛子酢味噌和え) today. You can leave out karashi, but it seriously adds a bold punch to the dish.
Karashi (辛子) is made of a mixture of crushed mustard seeds of Brassica juncea and horseradish. Compared to mild yellow mustard, it’s a lot spicier and intense but also more complex, with a pleasant undertone sweetness. I always have this condiment in my pantry as a quick flavor booster.
-ae (和え) is a Japanese cooking style or a dish name that ingredients are dressed with some kind of sauce.
For example, when an ingredient is dressed with sesame seed-based sauce, it’s called goma-ae (胡麻和え) as goma means sesame seeds.
Helpful Tips on Cooking Asparagus
How to Select Best Asparagus
- Enjoy when it’s in season – Asparagus is a springtime produce (between February and June) and that’s when it’s at its optimal freshness. Although it is available year-round here in California, spring is when domestic asparagus is in season. Its journey to us is shorter and the flavor is sweeter.
- Spear size – You will see thick spears about the size of a marker and spears as thin as a pencil. Contrary to the old myths, neither thin or thick is superior in flavor. In general, and as expected, the thinner ones cook faster. For presentation and a minimal prep dish like this, I’d go with the thicker spears.
- Look at the tips and color – The tip should be closed, intact, and dry (not mushy). The color should be in bright green.
How to Store Asparagus for a Long Time
- Trim off the bottoms and wrap in a damp paper towel before putting them in a plastic bag (it’s a good tip for the majority of vegetables).
- Store the asparagus in the vegetable or crisper section of the refrigerator.
- When the tips get mushy, it’s best to discard them.
5 Steps to Perfectly Blanched Asparagus
- Discard the inedible tough bottoms off asparagus. For this recipe, I wanted a clean look, so I cut off the bottoms with a knife (and continue cutting into 2-inch/5-cm pieces). You can also snap the bottoms off with your fingertips, or shave off the thick outer skin with a vegetable peeler.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- When boiling, add salt and cook asparagus stems for 1 to 1.5 minutes, then add the spears to cook another minute, or until crisp-tender. Depending on the thickness of the asparagus, the blanching time should be 2 to 2.5 minutes but adjust the cooking time based on the thickness of the asparagus. Do not overcook.
- Shock in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, which brings out the beautiful green color.
- Drain well and ready to assemble.
How to Make Sumiso (Vinegar Miso Dressing)
Now that you know how to cook asparagus perfectly, let’s go over how we prepare this Japanese classic Sumiso (Vinegar Miso Dressing)!
The ingredients are really simple:
- White miso
- Rice vinegar
- Karashi mustard (optional – if you add, we call it ‘Karashi Sumiso’)
For white miso, I used Organic White Miso by Hikari Miso. As a huge fan of this brand for over a decade, it’s my first pick for white miso.
It’s made from organic rice and soybeans and it has a light yellow color original to Shinshu-style miso. A high volume of rice koji culture produces its mild taste and smooth texture.
You can purchase this miso at Japanese/Asian grocery stores and Amazon.
No Asparagus? Here are Other Ingredients for Sumisoae
There are a few other classic ingredients you can use to make Sumisoae:
- Wakame seaweed
You get to enjoy Sumisoae even when asparagus is not in season!
Asparagus with Miso Dressing (Karashi Sumisoae)
- 8 oz asparagus (12 pieces)
- Gather all the ingredients.
To Make Miso Dressing
- In a small bowl, mix white miso and sugar really well until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the rest of the ingredients to combine. Set aside.
To Blanch Asparagus
- Cut off the bottom ends of the asparagus (You can also snap with fingers or shave off with a vegetable peeler. For a clean presentation, I trimmed the bottoms with a knife). Then chop the remaining asparagus into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces. Keep the spears and tips separated as we will blanch them separately.
- Bring a large pot of water (5 cups) to a boil and add 1 tsp salt. Add all the stems of asparagus and cook for 1 to 1.5 minutes.
- Then add the tip sections to cook for another 1 minute, or until bright green and crisp-tender.
- Drain water (or pick up the asparagus with a strainer) and shock in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, which brings out the beautiful green color. Once cooled, drain well and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Neatly arrange the asparagus stems in serving bowls and place the tips on top. Drizzle miso dressing before you serve. I put salt pickled cherry blossom on top as a garnish.