Tempura is a traditional Japanese recipe. Seafood (usually shrimp) and vegetables are dipped into batter and then deep-fried, then served with a special dipping sauce. It’s one of the most frequently ordered dishes at Japanese restaurants, but is also very easy to make at home. Try doing this for a delicious but budget-friendly dinner. Or, serve to kids and sneak in the veggies! To make perfect, crispy, and delicately-flavored tempura, try these tips.
1. Use fresh ingredients for tempura
Tempura’s light batter enhances the natural sweetness of fresh seafood and vegetables. So, it’s best to make this the same day you go to the supermarket or farmer’s market.
2. Dry your tempura ingredients.
Here’s the secret to super-crispy tempura: dry the surface of all your ingredients! Pat shrimp, squid and fish with paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth. Wash and cut your vegetables hours beforehand, place in a colander, and then leave next to a sunny window.
3. Add ‘flavoring’ to your tempura oil.
Mix a little rapeseed oil, peanut oil or sesame oil into your usual cooking oil. This will add a subtle but undeniable ‘depth’ to the flavor of you tempura.
4. Cut seafood into bite-sized pieces.
This makes it faster to dry and easier to eat! Plus, you won’t have to keep flipping the food as it cooks—which (as we talk about later on) lowers the temperature of the oil and leads to soggy tempura.
5. Prepare your vegetables.
Don’t peel sweet potatoes; just cut them into rounds. Zucchini, carrots, eggplants can be cut into strips. Leave green beans, asparagus and snow pea pods intact and fry them as is.
Don’t be afraid to experiment! You can make tempura from onions, green peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, squash (cut into thin strips or rounds), okra (cut in half). Aside from shrimp you can use scallops, crab (just break the shell open), squid, and any white-fleshed fish fillet.
6. Choose the right frying tools.
The most ideal tool is a deep fryer that lets you set the temperature. Otherwise you can use a cast-iron enamel pot or an iron wok. Avoid very thin pans.
7. Don’t overmix the tempura batter.
Tempura batter usually needs egg, water, flour, and occasionally, corn starch or potato starch
and baking soda. (Never use bread flour.) However, the flour is only used to ‘hold’ the ingredients. If it develops gluten you’ll get a heavy, doughy batter (which tastes and feels like uncooked bread) rather than crispy golden goodness.
Mix your batter just before you’re ready to begin frying. As a general rule, your egg-liquid proportion should be 1:5 Ior 250 ml of water for a small egg). Add just enough flour to keep things together. Mix very fast with a chopstick or fork. Keep the batter cold by adding ice cubes. Don’t obsess about lumps of flour—these won’t stick to the tempura anyway.
8. Wait for the right temperature.
The oil should be 175C. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer you can check if the oil is hot enough by dropping batter into the pain. It’s the ‘perfect’ temperature when the batter drops a bit down but then rises immediately to the surface.
9. Cook tempura in small batches.
Cooking too much tempura in one batch overcrowds the pan or deep dryer and lowers the temperature. This will lead to oily, soggy tempura. Just fry about 4 to 5 pieces at a time.
10. Cook tempura ingredients in the right order.
Start with leafy vegetables, then go to vegetables that have been cut into strips. After that, you can do vegetables that have been cut into rounds. End with seafood. These usually take shorter to cook because the oil has already ‘heated’ up from frying all the vegetables.
11. Don’t fuss over the tempura.
You don’t need to flip tempura over and over again. In fact, ‘fussing’ over it will just lower the temperature and make it soggy and oily.
12. Drain the oil.
If you have a deep-fryer, just lift the grill and shake off excess oil. You can also line your kitchen counter or plates with table napkins, which will absorb any extra cooking fat. After that, transfer to your serving plate.
13. Eat it right away.
Hot tempura is the best tempura. It’s better to make just enough and serve immediately than to let it grow cold on the dinner table while you try to finish everything.
14. Serve with tempura dipping sauce
You can buy pre-made dipping sauce from Asian specialty stores or make your own by combining 1 cup dashi soup stock, ¼ cup mirin, ¼ cup soy sauce, and ½ tablespoon sugar. Tempura also tastes good with garlic-mayo dip.
15. How to reheat tempura
Don’t refry it! Instead, place it in a toaster oven or an oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Or, if it’s soggy from being in the refrigerator overnight, serve in a bowl of Asian noodles.