What is not well known about this dish is that this so-called Japanese dish was introduced by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries during the sixteenth century. Like many foods adopted by the Japanese, Tempura has been tweaked to suit their palate and it has passed so thoroughly into native cooking that its origin is almost forgotten.
When cooking tempura there are three essentials:
1. Fresh ingrediants
2. Oil at a constant temperature
3. Lumpy batter.....(don't worry, I'll elaborate more on this)
Using fresh meat, fish and vegetables is a given really, while keeping the oil at a consistent temperature allows for even and light cooking.
The lumpy batter, although sounds odd as we tend to make batters as smooth as possible, allows for a crisper, lighter coating.
With Tempura the goal is a lacy, golden effect with the deep fried coating, not a thick coating of pancake mix.
To achieve this, prepare the batter just before you are ready to begin deep-frying and do not let the batter stand for too long.
Tempura batter should not be smooth and velvety. It should only be loosely blended together (with chopsticks, which are not an effective tool for mixing and hence the perfect utensil for this job!) Fantastic!
A good Tempura batter should have a ring of flour around the sides of a mixing bowl and a mixture marked with lumps of dry flour.
|Special Tempura flour with a well of ice water|
|Mix briefly using chopsticks|
|Use less water for a thicker coating|
|Now! Time for some ingredients!|
2 medium onions cut lengthways. Pierce with toothpicks then cut into rounds to keep rounds from falling apart.
4-5 inches lotus root, scraped and sliced into rounds.
8-10 mushrooms (I used oyster, but shiitake or white mushrooms work well too) wiped and trimmed
1 small aubergine, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices on the diagonal
1 small green pepper, cut lengthways into quarters
1 batch Tempura batter
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
60ml sesame oil
Note: White fish, such as whiting or pollack, king prawns and squid are highly recommended for Tempura as they are light and cook quickly. Chicken is also a good addition to Tempura, but make sure it is thinly sliced so its cooks thoroughly.
500ml iced water (I sit the jug in the freezer an hour before I begin cooking)
45g potato starch, sifted
140g plain flour, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients together and add small amounts of water to get correct consistency before frying.
Make a second batch if needed.
Note: In my cooking, I used a special Tempura flour which can be found in most Asian food stores and makes the process even easier.
|Tempura is best served with a dipping sauce|
250ml dashi stock (for vegetarians/vegans, a kombu and shiitake mix works just as well.)
80ml light soy sauce
2 tsps finely grated root ginger
Prepare the dipping sauce by combining dashi, mirin and soy over heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Keep warm until serving.
1. Prepare the vegetables (and fish or chicken if using). Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate until needed.
2. Fill a heavy based saucepan one third full of vegetable oil and add the sesame oil.
3. Heat to 180C. Test by dropping a tiny bit of batter into the oil; it should sink slightly and the be buoyed up to the surface with the oil gently bubbling around its edges.
(Just a reminder, this is hot oil so please be cautious and avoid splashing and high heat. On my electric cooker, I move between 3 and 4 on the dial) But this is just a guideline. If nervous have a safety blanket nearby.
4. Make a batch of batter and starting with the onion, quickly dip into the batter-allowing any excess to drip off- and then lower into the oil.
|Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the batter is a golden, crispy colour.|
|Cook 2-3 pieces at any one time.|
5. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a low heated oven.
6. Continue with the rest of the vegetables while making sure the oil temperature doesn't drop. (check using above method)
7. If using fish or prawns, allow 1-2 minutes cooking time. With chicken, allow for 2-3 minutes and if unsure, cut one piece open to see if there is no pink.
Serve the cooked Tempura on a large platter for all to take as they please along with bowls of hot rice.
|All for meeee....nom nom nom!|
At the table, pour the hot dipping sauce into a small bowl and mix in the grated ginger.
Dip Tempura in this sauce and eat.
Simple as that.
|From L to R: Grated ginger, dipping sauce, selection of Tempura and rice.|