Asparagus and Chicken Stir-Fried with Miso Sauce


As you might have guessed by this second appearance of asparagus in one week, this is one of my favourite vegetables. Its season is quite short, so I try to profit from its presence as much as I can and cannot promise this will be the last time I talk about it this year. Green variety, especially when not too thick, is in my opinion the most versatile asparagus. Most of my experiments prove it is excellent in both Western and Asian dishes and pairs well even with unexpected products, such as miso (Japanese fermented soybean paste; see below). The stir-fry you see above was a part of one of the quick and simple, improvised “donburi”, or Japanese-style rice bowls dish I prepare quite often (thank you, Nami!). The crunchy blanched asparagus, the creamy miso sauce and tender chicken breast created a pleasant spring topping for rice and will probably be my staple until asparagus is in season. /UPDATE: I have just learnt that a stir-fried dish with miso sauce is called “miso itame”. Thank you, Hiroyuki!/

Miso (味噌), a thick paste made by fermenting soybeans and/or barley or rice, is one of the most important ingredients of the Japanese cuisine (Korean and Chinese cuisines use very similar pastes too). Miso is healthy; it is packed with protein, vitamins and minerals and some people claim it even helps to fight the radiation sickness. In Japan miso has three main colour types: white (shiromiso), red (akamiso), black (kuromiso), and there is also mixed miso (awasemiso). In general, the lighter the colour, the more delicate the taste, but it’s not always the case, so it’s worth asking the shop assistant or reading the label before buying it. The only downside of miso is that is can be very high in sodium, so watch out for special “low sodium” misos (some high quality misos don’t even have this mention, but are less salty). Whatever the salt content, white miso has always a milder taste, so it’s a good idea to start one’s adventure with light coloured miso. Apart from the three basic colours, there are myriads of different misos, depending on the brand or producer, the ingredients, the region…

Miso soup is usually the first dish in which foreigners discover this Japanese staple, but it’s also used in simmered dishes, as a seasoning for grilled fish and meat, in sauces, pickles… Its complex flavour is an excellent taste booster in stir-fries and I love the creaminess it adds to sauces. Miso is, at least for me, highly addictive, probably because it is rich in the umami, or fifth taste, made famous by a Japanese professor.

If you are still hesitating if you should invest in a package of miso, here are some other ways to use it:

Garlic Miso Chicken Breast

Aubergine with Ponzu, Miso and Sesame Sauce

Miso Soup with Tofu

-Miso Soup with Shrimp and Tofu

-Mackerel Simmered in Miso

-Chicken and Potatoes in Miso Stew

-Chicken and Aubergine in Garlic Miso Sauce

TIP: The less you boil/cook miso, the more you preserve its precious nutrients, so it’s best just to heat it at the end.

The garlic’s presence is not obligatory in this sauce, but since I discovered garlic and miso combination thanks to Nami’s Garlic Miso Chicken Wings (Just One Cookbook blog), I have fallen in love with it. I adapted Nami’s recipe in Garlic Miso Chicken Breast and used miso and garlic sauce in Chicken and Aubergine in Garlic Miso Sauce).

Preparation: about 20 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

12-14 green, medium thick or thin asparagus stalks

1 chicken breast

1 tablespoon sake

1/8 teaspoon salt


2 tablespoons miso

2 tablespoons sake

1 tablespoon syrup (I used agave syrup) or 2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons soy sauce (or more if using low-sodium soy sauce)

1 clove garlic, grated or crushed (the garlic is not obligatory)

(toasted white sesame seeds)

Bring to a boil one litre of water in a big pan.

Cut up the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, combine with sake and sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Cut off the toughest part of the the asparagus stalks’ (I usually cut off 1/4 if I use the above-mentioned, medium thick asparagus).

Blanch the asparagus for one minute (or even less if the stalks are very thin) and quickly put into very cold water to stop the cooking process.

Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Combine all the sauce ingredients. Put aside.

Heat two tablespoons oil in a pan or wok.

Drain the chicken, pat it fry.

Stir-fry the chicken until it is cooked.

Than add the asparagus and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

Add add the miso sauce and heat for about 30 seconds, stirring, until everything is well heated.

Serve with rice and, if you wish, sprinkle with sesame seeds.


40 Replies to “Asparagus and Chicken Stir-Fried with Miso Sauce”

  1. We just had garlic miso wings as per my son’s request. He really loves it. I like your donburi style more as I feel like this is the only dish I have to prepare (protein, grain, and veggies). I love asparagus too and always have it in the fridge. It’s my turn to try your recipe! Thanks for mentioning my blog Sissi! I will respond to your email about the question tonight from my computer. Sorry for the delay!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. I haven’t thought about it, but now that you mention donburi… I realise it’s the most frequent meal I have been having for at least two years! Just like, you, I find so easy and quick to put carbs, vegetables and proteins together in the same bowl. I must add it to the post. I also prepare your garlic and miso chicken in the oven (under the broiler) quite often. Unfortunately it’s difficult here to buy good quality chicken wings separately, so I usually prepare it with my modified breast version. Thank you again for teaching me the garlic and miso combination! It’s terrific. (Please, take your time! My question wasn’t urgent at all. I just was reminded about it when I was finishing this post today…).

  2. Oh Sissi, how I long for local asparagus, sadly it isn’t so. Our weather has not been conducive for vegetation, perhaps in a month, I’m hoping. The asparagus is still from Mexico, and as tempting as it is, I just won’t do it. I’ll bookmark this one and the previous recipe as soon as I see Ontario asparagus.
    Hope your spring is nicer than ours!

    1. Eva, I don’t think I have ever eaten Swiss asparagus, but Italian organic asparagus appeared two weeks ago in both my supermarket organic part and my organic grocery shop, so I’m very happy. I usually buy aspragus from Provence, but for this I need to go to a Saturday market in France and the weather is simply too awful…
      We also have asparagus from Mexico in supermarkets here! I think already in March. Never tasted it though, so I understand you are not willing to buy it.

  3. I agree, there are so many ways to enjoy miso – soup is just the beginning! Sometimes I just brush a coating of miso on fish and pop it under the broiler, so delicious! I’m glad you’re taking advantage of asparagus while you can and let’s face it, produce always tastes best in season. The prices have not quite come down as much as I’d like here – we haven’t fully hit asparagus stride yet. I must try your toasted sesame seeds Sissi – I use sesame seeds from time to time but keep forgetting to toast them which I’m quite sure would elevate them to a whole new level – especially in a dish like this; a lovely touch.

    1. Hi, Kelly. As I have just told Eva, I buy Italian asparagus and when I finally make it to the farmers’ market in France (when the weather is better) my favourite comes from Provence. Toasted seeds taste better, but I also often forget to do it.

  4. Miso and asparagus, what a wonderful combination! We should be having local asparagus poking through the ground soon. When I get some, I will have to give this a try!

  5. Delightful recipe! I can actually buy a range of FIVE different misos here Down Under: I won’t pretend i know all their names, but buy the ‘middle’ ones: lighter or darker tan. Am surprised at the paucity of chicken wings out your way – these are the cheapest and most common chicken parts available at every supermarket/butcher here usually at $3.99 per Kg. I balk at them somewhat because it is almost impossibel to remove the skin and that makes them unhealthier than the most marbled steak! Still they are wonderful for chicken stock and sometimes one just has to have some guey messy Chinese chicken wings and do penance afterwards 🙂 !

    1. Thank you, Eha. I think I have four misos now in the fridge (including a Korean one). Unfortunately the only ones I can buy are battery chicken wings and I have been buying only free-range or organic chicken for many years, so I don’t buy these. The only option I have is to go to one of the butchers in France, order wings (they are not very popular, it’s easier to buy chicken livers), come back several days afterwards, etc.. but I do it very very rarely because it’s not easy. They are also the cheapest cut, of course if I can find them… I do have regularly two wings from the whole chicken, but I leave them to prepare the stock too.

      1. The ones I buy are supposedly free range – my purse does not always stretch to organic and, no, most of the piles in the supermarket are probably from battery hens which are fast being phased out here! Fully agree with you tho’ !

        1. I know the problem… I still remember when I decided to buy only free-range or organic chicken. Since I eat a lot of chicken, my food budget increased in a shocking way, but I had already lived it with eggs before. Like you, I also try to buy free-range because it’s usually cheaper (actually sometimes the taste is better!). The most important thing is that the chickens actually walk instead of being squashed.

  6. Looks like comfort food for anyone!

    I think that stir-frying with miso (miso itame) is quite common in Japan.
    We do use garlic in certain dishes, particularly in so-called “stamina ryori” スタミナ料理 (those dishes you would want to have if you get exhausted or if you want extra power to do something), but you will be surprised to see that garlic is little used in traditional Japanese restaurants. Some even say that it is a taboo to bring garlic to the kitchen. It is considered that the strong flavor of garlic kills the subtle flavor of the ingredients. Another interesting fact is that in Japan, garlic is almost always used in gyoza, whereas in China, where it originated, it is usually isn’t.

    1. Thank you, Hiroyuki. I have never heard about miso itame! And never seen it in any blog (I must have somehow missed it on blogs…). I will modify my text of this post!
      I have noticed that garlic is not very popular in Japan. I always laugh that if I were to describe Korean cuisine, my first thought would be that it’s a bit similar to Japanese cuisine, but with lots of chili and garlic 😉 I had no idea about gyoza…

  7. Oh Sissi I have been craving asparagus – I keep looking at it in the supermarket. But I hate it how they make them stand in the water. It’s still very expensive.

    1. Zsuzsa, I have never seen them presented like this here. They are always expensive though, especially given the fact that you have to cut off at least 1/3 of them…

  8. Sissi – this looks fabulous – we are excited this year, because our asparagus bed is finally mature enough that we can eat from it pretty freely. This will definitely be seen on our table soon!

  9. Sissi – your timing is perfect! I just invested in a bag of Miso and had no idea what I was going to do with that much Miso. Thanks for the links to other miso recipes and thanks for this one. Also the tips on miso were quite helpful. I was not aware that you should add it at the end. This asparagus recipe looks so easy to make and absolutely delicious. I have to admit that I never would have thought of pairing asparagus with Japanese cuisine. I don’t remember ever having seen asparagus in a Japanese dish. It sure looks delicious! This is a keeper!

    1. Hi, MJ. I’m so glad if I can help to use up your miso. Miso keeps fresh in the fridge practically forever, which is a good thing.
      You can always add miso at the beginning (for example there is no other way with fish simmered in miso, I prepare it with mackerel), but it doesn’t lose its taste, just some of nutritious advantages. A bit like lemon or many other food products.
      I have read on internet that contrary to Japanese miso, the Korean one can be cooked for hours and still retains its “miraculous” properties. I wonder if it’s true… I have a tub of Korean miso too, but I cook with it more rarely.
      Asparagus is probably not the most popular vegetable in Japan, but I have seen on certain blogs it’s served in restaurants in Japan.
      I found it extraordinary in tempura (the photo is bad, sorry)
      Going back to miso, you combine it with soy sauce, sake and/or some syrup and you already have a nice sauce for any stir-fried dish!

      1. Sorry for intrusion, but I have to make it clear that comtemporary miso can go bad even if stored in the fridge. The mith that miso will keep for ever will apply to traditional, very salty miso only. I would recommend storing miso in the freezer not in the fridge. Don’t worry, miso won’t harden when frozen.

        Haccho miso (八丁味噌) is probably the only type of miso that can be simmered for a long time.

        1. Thank you so much, Hiroyuki! I had no idea. I suppose all the miso I have been storing in the fridge for long months has no longer any nutrients… it does taste good though 🙂

          1. Well, don’t jump to the conclusion that miso will lose its nutrients when stored in the fridge (laugh)! I just said comtemporary miso can go bad when stored in the fridge, just like any other foodstuff.

            1. Thank you again! I did have a spoilt miso, but it was Korean and I forgot it for at least two years at the back of the fridge… It has changed colour to darker and lost its taste (no mould though!). I have been going now through a 1kg miso my Japanese friend sent me and even using it regularly, I don’t take it out as often as a Japanese person would… so I have had it for a year…

  10. Those chicken bites are perfectly glazed and the addition of asparagus gave it a balanced beauty. Very simple but beautiful presentation. I hope you are enjoying your week, Sissi! 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, Ray. It’s a very simple, but delicious dish. Thank you for the compliments!

    1. Thank you so much, Sue. I have also thought I made a fusion dish, but Hiroyuki told me that miso stir-frying is quite popular in Japan. It doesn’t change the fact that I really liked the combination of miso, chicken and asparagus.

  11. Oh…what a lovely dish. I adore asparagus too and get them whenever I could. 🙂 The miso sauce sounds lovely with this dish. May I have an extra bowl of rice, please?

  12. It’s good to find another green asparagus fan Sissi. French people and their obsession with white aspargus. The stuff is vile, but if you’ve got any recipes for it which might help me get over my strong dislike of it then… I’m all ears!

    I’m ashamed to admit I still didn’t get any miso paste… chalk it up to “one of these things that I positively, absolutely, for sure” will get to one day, but I can appreciate your dish even despite that, and I know well the miso flavour so I know how well it works with ingredients like this (plus it looks yummy!).

    Nice table-cloth by the way 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, Charles. I do prefer green asparagus because it’s easier to cook, to serve and there’s less of it to be thrown away. The white one is however more sophisticated in my opinion and I really love it when it’s well cooked and served with home-made mayonnaise or another similar sauce, cold. Someone in my family cooks and serves it in such a marvellous way, I could eat tons of it… but only cold, as a starter only and when it’s very thick and fat (i.e. the most expensive 😉 ).
      Green asparagus is simpler and I buy it much more often of course.
      PS Thanks for the compliment! It’s actually just a big piece of folded fabric I bought several years ago to sew a tablecloth… I somehow got bored by the colour but most of all I think I’m not patient enough to do sewing unless it’s necessary and if you saw the results…
      I’m sure you have a huge choice of miso in Paris, so I hope you will buy some soon.

    2. Oh, I must ask for a recipe and then I will give it to you! It’s very easy to spoil white asparagus, so maybe you were not lucky with it… (It’s typically something I would never take in an average restaurant).

  13. Such a fabulous way of stir-frying the chicken with the asparagus stalks, Sissi. Glad you mentioned about the 2Tbsp of Miso sauce, because in the ingredient section you just listed it as MISO.
    In our supermarket, it only comes in a powder form…very, potent, and you only need a small amount to add to soups and sauces! I also love Miso soup; will check out your recipe now, for the soup. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much, Elisabeth. I think I must have explained badly… miso is never sold in powdered form. What you see powdered in shops is powdered miso soup stock (i.e. Japanese stock with a bit of miso) or simply Japanese “dashi” stock (without miso), it’s an equivalent of, say, powdered chicken stock.
      As I have explained above miso is a thick paste made of fermented soy beans and often other grains (looks a bit like sesame paste or peanut butter) and it looks like this: When I say “2 tablespoons miso”, I mean miso, not powdered miso soup. Then I say “add miso sauce” meaning the ingredients listed along with miso under the word “Sauce”… Sorry for this misunderstanding. I am not good at explaining sometimes.

  14. Oh how I do miss the spring months in Europe and the plethora of asapargus available. It was the best and the worst…eating as much of the white stuff until you were sick of it. 🙂 Luckily back in the states I can make this recipe any time of the year.

    1. We can also find here asparagus at least half of the year, but if is tasteless when out of season (for example Mexican asparagus is available I think already in February, but I wouldn’t dare even touching it).

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