I'm going to assume I don't need to explain what tempura is to you, given that it might be the most ubiquitous Japanese dish. But you may not know that this emblematic dish made its way to Japan via the Portuguese and so is actually an import to Japan itself. Nevertheless, it's now firmly a part of Japanese food culture and thank goodness for that.
Good tempura, despite essentially being deep-fried, has a certain lightness and delicacy. Conversely, bad tempura is soggy, bready and sits very heavy in one's stomach. From my experiments, there are a few key things to note: serve the food immediately! Tempura is not meant to sit around. Also, watch your frying items carefully and do not overfry. You might have to get used to the different frying times of different items. And of course, experiment away. If you don't like the veggies that I used below, you can try sliced mushrooms, eggplant or even discs of yellow onion.
- fresh medium-to-large sized shrimp, shells removed and deveined
- sweet potato or yam
- green bell pepper
- lotus root
- For tempura batter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup ice-cold water
- Dipping sauce (Tentsuyu てんつゆ/天汁)
- 3/4 cup dashi stock
- 1/4 cup mirin (cooking rice wine)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- mound of grated white radish (daikon 大根)
- Prepare your veggies: peel and slice the sweet potato, yam and lotus roots into thin discs and slice the green pepper into long strips. Lay your veggies on a paper towel to extract any residual moisture.
- Cut little slits along the inner curl of the shrimp so that they don't curl up when you fry them. Also set the shrimp on the paper towel.
- Prepare your dipping sauce: mix dashi stock, mirin and soy sauce. Swirl in the grated radish. Pour into small bowls - one for each person eating.
- A little setup for your frying: put enough vegetable oil in your pan and put it on medium-high heat. While you're waiting, sprinkle flour on a plate for dipping, get chopsticks ready for removing the fried items, and get a plate or strainer covered with paper towel ready for the fried items to cool.
- Now, for the batter: combine the egg yolk with the ice cold water in a bowl. Set that bowl inside a larger bowl filled with some water and ice cubes to keep the inner bowl with the egg mixture cool. Now mix in the flour to the egg mixture and stir a few times, brusquely -- the idea is to keep the batter lumpy and bubbly, so do not over stir!
- Your oil should be hot by now - to test it, flick a bit of batter and see if it sizzles to the surface. If so, it's time to work quickly now -- flour each item, dip into the batter and then place gently into the hot oil. Rotate after a minute or two to ensure each side is cooked evenly. Depending on what you are cooking and how many items you have at once, cooking times will vary.
- Artfully stack the tempura on a plate lined with paper and with a small bowl of dipping sauce on the side. Serve immediately!
Serving Size: 2-4
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Preparation Time: 40 minutes