Until I moved to Japan, I'd never heard of white asparagus. It comes from Europe, but it's become a popular springtime delicacy here in Japan. Contrary to what you might imagine, this isn't some new-fangled designer cultivar. White asparagus is simply regular asparagus that's been deprived of sunlight as it grows. This prevents the stalk from producing chlorophyll and other compounds that can give this lanky vegetable some funky flavors that put some people off.
The snow-white stalks are sweet, tender, and packed with umami-producing compounds like asparagine and glutamate. Since they don't get smelly or turn brown like green asparagus when overcooked, I usually boil white asparagus longer, rendering them tender and juicy like a stick of flavorful vegetable broth.
In France, white asparagus is often served with a hollandaise sauce, but for my version, I like to marinate it overnight in a lighter emulsion of rice vinegar and olive oil, using mustard and a bit of mayonnaise as emulsifiers to bring them together. Then, to finish it off, I shaved some Bianchetti truffle on top, which has a pungent aroma similar to white truffles, but at 1/10th the cost. This is optional, though, and if you like the aroma of truffles but can't find them, you could substitute a quality truffle oil instead.
If you're not a truffle person, these are also delicious topped with fresh herbs such as chervil, tarragon, or parsley.
One thing that white asparagus does share in common with its sundrenched siblings is that thicker stalks are better. That's because all asparagus tends to have a thick fibrous skin on the stem, which either needs to be trimmed off or peeled. The thicker the stem, the thicker the sweet and tender core. These were about the thickness of my thumb.
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