Zak Pelaccio's Asparagus Kerabu Recipe

Michael Schrom

Spring is here and with it comes many stalks of wonderfully green asparagus, and while we love them simply steamed, drowned with hollandaise, or topped off with a wobbly poached egg, we're thinking this Asparagus Kerabu from Zak Pelaccio's Eat with Your Hands might just be our new asparagus go-to for the season.

This take on a Malaysian salad soaks the stalks in a bath of lime juice and fish sauce before splitting the tips and stems for a raw/charred asparagus experience. The stalks are shaved thin and the tips are charred in a searing hot pan before getting tossed with ginger, bean sprouts, mint, onion, chiles, and ginger. The last, balancing touch is kerisik, or pan toasted coconut, that brings both sweetness and a crunchy-chewiness to the salad.

Recommended playlist and drinks pairing:

Listen: Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On?"--the melancholy soul vibe that moves you in more ways than a naked chiropractor.

Drink: Ezio Voyat Chambave "La Gazzella" 2004, a unique moscato that I can't seem to drink enough of.

What Worked: This Asparagus Kerabu is a prime example of the bitter-sour-salty-sweet profile that makes Southeast Asian food so satisfying. The bitterness of the asparagus is complemented and accentuated by salty fish sauce, tart lime, and sweet, toasty coconut.

What Didn't: We couldn't possibly find a point of contention with this spring salad.

Suggested Tweaks: If you're not jazzed about shaving asparagus stems, charring them on the grill or in a cast-iron pan would be a time-saver.

Reprinted with permission from Eat with Your Hands by Zakary Pelaccio. Copyright © 2012. Published by Ecco. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 45 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 28 green asparagus stalks, trimmed
  • Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh
  • Vietnamese mint (rau ram) leaves
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh thai bird chilies, julienned
  • 1 tablespoon julienned peeled young fresh ginger
  • 1 cup Kerisik (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • Kerisik
  • 1 cup shredded fresh coconut, from about 1 mature coconut (you might need another to reach 1 cup), or store-bought unsweetened shredded coconut


  1. For the Kerisik: If you’re shredding your own coconut, use an old cleaver, machete, hammer, or other instrument of destruction to crack open the fruit. then use a paring knife to cut and pry the white flesh away from the hard shell. Remove the thin brown skin left on the meat with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Use the large holes of a box grater to grate the fresh coconut flesh.

  2. Sprinkle the grated coconut in no more than a 1⁄2-inch-deep layer (work in batches if necessary) in a large pan over medium heat. toss the coconut every 30 seconds. once the coconut starts to color lightly, start tossing more often. When most flakes have turned a golden brown color, give the pan a few shakes over the heat, then a couple more tosses and a few shakes again, like some superstitious ritual that keeps the coconut-burning gods at bay while stealing a few more precious moments of cooking time. Pull the pan from the heat and toss it nervously just to prevent those burning gods from following you out of the fire. Spread the toasted coconut on a platter or cookie sheet to cool.

  3. For the Asparagus Kerabu: Cut off the tops of the asparagus approximately 1⁄2 inch below the tip and set the tips aside. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the asparagus stems lengthwise into long, thin ribbons. toss them in a bowl with the lime juice and fish sauce and set the mixture aside for at least 15 minutes.

  4. Heat a dry cast-iron pan or griddle over high heat and char the asparagus tips on all sides, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. then transfer them to a large mixing bowl.

  5. Once the tips have cooled, add the mint, bean sprouts, onion, chilies, and ginger and toss well. then add the asparagus stems with their liquid and the kerisik, toss well, and season to taste with more lime juice and fish sauce. transfer the salad to a bowl and sprinkle on the cilantro leaves.