Tempura is a Japanese dish that is made out of crispy deep fried seafood and vegetables. Usually ingredients such as prawns, squash, carrots, eggplants, green beans, sweet potatoes and okra are used. Tempura can be eaten on its own, with sauce or as a part of other dishes such as soba or udon soup, a very light dish with a really distinctive crispy batter. This crispy batter with most inside is what defines a really good tempura and the secret is really simple which I will explain below.
This dish was introduced in the mid-16th century by the early Portuguese Jesuits. Tempura like most of the other Japanese dishes is not a dish name but the method of cooking, which is why that term “tempura” is used to define the technique of dipping seafood and vegetables into a batter and frying them. The word came from “tempora” which means “time period” and it is used by the Portuguese missionaries who introduced the dish to refer to the Lenten period and other Christian holy days, these days are days where Catholics avoid eating meat so fish and vegetables will be the only option. Well if this is the meal replacement during the Lenten season then I guess I want to have many Lenten seasons in a year as I really love this dish, a deep fried food that does not taste oily and feel heavy.
Now for the secret. To make the perfect crispy batter you should use ice cold water and remember not to over mix the batter as it will result in activation of wheat gluten which makes the flour mixture chewy when fried as opposed to crispy, so use chopsticks when making your batter, mix it gently and don’t worry about the lumps. You then quickly deep fry your tempura in small batches to retain the temperature, once done with the batch clean oil by scooping out any fried breading which is called Tenkasu and use it as toppings to noodle soup dishes. Early methods use a lightly flavoured sesame oil for added flavour so if you wish you can feel free to do so.
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- 1 cup of flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1½ cup ice cold water
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 12 pcs prawns, shelled and deveined
- 2 pcs sweet potatoes, sliced
- oil for deep frying
- In a big mixing bowl add ice cubes and place a smaller bowl on top.
- Mix all batter ingredients lightly on the smaller bowl, just enough to make the flour moist, do not over mix.
- Heat oil to 180C in a deep fryer.
- Now dip 1 prawn or sweet potatoes at a time in the cold batter into the fryer. Cooking 3 items at a time and give a good drizzle of the cold batter on top, this will give volume and more texture to the item that is cooked. Cook for no more than 1 minute or until it is light brown in colour.
- Scoop out everything in the fryer, place in a towel lined plate then cook the remaining ingredients.
- Mix sauce ingredients together then serve it with freshly cooked tempura.