The ancestor of this dish is negimaki — grilled or broiled scallions wrapped in thin slices of beef marinated in teriyaki sauce. In this variant, baby asparagus is substituted for the scallions. The cooking process is also modified to make the cooking indoor-friendly (it’s been raining all day). The asparagus is wrapped in beef, the parcels are lightly floured then fried in a little oil to sear. The teriyaki sauce is boiled gently until reduced, the fried beef-wrapped asparagus parcels are returned to the pan where they cook just long enough to soak up the sauce.
In most recipes on the web, strips of beef (cut like bacon rashers) are wound around the asparagus. I used sukiyaki-cut beef instead to make wrapping easier and to make sure that the beef cooks in a few minutes. If sukiyaki-cut beef is not available in your area, just choose a good cut of beef and ask the butcher to machine-slice the meat for you. Top round, bottom round or eye round are my choices; sirloin and tenderloin do not have enough fat.
Now, about the asparagus. If you’re using larger spears, you will need to cut off the woody bottoms. You’ll also need to blanch the asparagus and give them an ice bath afterwards.
What for? The cooking time of this dish is very short and large asparagus spears won’t get cooked through. So, they’ll have to be partially cooked already before they are wrapped in meat.
The preparation takes a little effort but don’t be scared because a lot of it is just wrapping.
Spread a slice of beef, arrange the asparagus on top and wrap.
Repeat until you run out of beef slices or asparagus.
Use a strainer or a flour sifter to lightly coat the beef-wrapped asparagus with flour.
Then, make the teriyaki sauce.
Fry the beef-wrapped asparagus in batches until browned and seared.
Boil the teriyaki sauce for about a minute. This thickens the sauce and removes the strong alcohol taste in the sake and mirin.
Put the fried beef-wrapped asparagus back into the pan with the sauce.
Roll them around until the meat has soaked up all the sauce.
For even better flavor and texture, sprinkle the beef-wrapped asparagus with toasted sesame seeds before serving.
Rinse and wipe dry the baby asparagus.
Place a slice of sukiyaki-cut beef flat on your work surface. Place three pieces of baby asparagus on the edge near you. Roll the beef carefully (don't tear them with heavy hands!) to seal the asparagus. Repeat until all the asparagus have been wrapped or until there are no beef slices left to wrap them with.
Arrange the beef-wrapped asparagus side by side in a single layer.
Place one tablespoon of rice flour in a strainer. Hold the strainer above the leftmost wrapped asparagus and, while moving the strainer slowly towards the right, tap gently.
Turn the beef-wrapped asparagus over. Repeat the flouring procedure with the remaining rice flour.
Make the teriyaki sauce. Mix together the sake, mirin, soy sauce, ginger and sugar (this is a sweetish version; omit for a sugar-free version).
Heat enough cooking oil in a pan to reach a depth of one-fourth inch.
Fry the beef-wrapped asparagus in batches of four or five. DO NOT overcook them. Just brown and sear then scoop out and move to a plate.
When all the wrapped asparagus have been browned and seared, pour the teriyaki sauce in the pan. Boil gently for a minute.
Arrange the fried beef-wrapped asparagus in the pan in a single layer. Cook over high heat, rolling them in the sauce, until the meat has soaked up all the sauce.
Transfer the beef-wrapped asparagus to a plate. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve at once.
See also the bacon, asparagus and mushroom rolls recipe.