Tempura is one of the most famous Japanese foods outside Japan. It is battered and deep fried seafood and vegetables. Tempura can be as formal as you want it to be at very expensive Tempura specialty restaurants in Japan, or casual home cooking.
At the hands of skilled Tempura chefs at nice restaurants, Tempura is light and crispy fare even though it is fried food. Seafood such as shrimps and fish as well as seasonal vegetables are prepared in front of you. It is so good and this kind of Tempura would not give you heartburn. You can make Tempura at home, of course, but it is a little tricky not to be soft and greasy. Not only does the batter have to be relatively thin, but it is important that the batter is cold and the oil is hot. This big difference of the temperature of batter and oil helps the finished product to be crispy.
Another important thing for Tempura is the choice of ingredients. There are a lot of Japanese restaurants in the US that serve Tempura, but their vegetables are usually not really so suitable for Tempura like broccoli and carrots. Broccoli florets get too soft and burned but the stalk is undercooked. Carrots… just don’t taste that great in Tempura. Understandably it is hard to get some traditional Japanese vegetables like lotus root, but others like green beans are everywhere in the US as well. You don’t need to use zucchini (unless you just love it)! Recommended vegetables for Tempura which are not so hard to find in the US are green beans, brown onions, sweet potatoes, Kabocha pumpkin, Asian eggplant, and Shiitake mushrooms.
You can use Tempura sauce called Tentsuyu for dipping or simply use salt. Tentsuyu is similar to Mentsuyu (noodle dipping sauce). If you use our Mentsuyu, just dilute the sauce with two parts water. In Kansai area (western Japan), Worcester sauce is sometimes used to drizzle on Tempura, but it may be more popular in working class neighborhoods.
It is not that hard to fry Tempura, but you may need to practice a couple of times. However, it is worthwhile because freshly made Tempura is just so heavenly!
- Kabocha pumpkin
- sweet potato
- green beans
- 3/4 C (95g) cake flour
- 1 tsp (5g) baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 C (180ml total) water with 3-4 ice cubes
- oil for deep frying
- Cut vegetables into 1/4" thick slices. Make diagonal cuts on shrimp to help straighten.
- Put cake flour, baking powder, salt in a medium bowl and whisk well.
- Add ice water into flour mixture and stir with chopsticks (not whisk) about 10 times. It's OK to have a lot of lumps in batter.
- Heat oil to very high temperature (375F). Dip vegetables and shrimp in batter, and deep fry until they float and are cooked through.