Sunday, November 29, 2009

Perfect Tempura

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I had it in my mind that I would learn to make perfectly crunchy tempura at home, the same you get at (good) Japanese restaurants. I tried doing tempura at home in the past and the results have always been mediocre. This time around, I was determined to make it right. I had a secret weapon though, that not everyone may have: a Japanese co-worker that happens to also be a great cook. She told me there are two important things to consider for a perfect tempura:

1- the batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.

2- the batter cannot be a smooth one. It is best to leave it lumpy, it will help create the bumps we see on the outside of the veggies and shrimp tempura.

The last tip I got was on how to make tempura sauce. I know you can buy it ready at most supermarkets, but I wanted to learn to make my own. The sauce ingredients need to simmer for a few minutes and then be strained. Do not let them boil.

For my homemade tempura adventure I used shrimp (the largest ones I cold find), sweet potatoes, yams, eggplants and onions. It turned out really nice and crispy. I could actually hear the sound of the batter cracking on our neighbour’s mouth as she enjoyed some of the shrimp tempura.


Tempura Recipe:

serves 4

Equipment needed: (this is not a mandatory list, but I found that it helped me a lot)

1 wok or very large pot

1 medium strainer, or “spider” to remove tempura from oil

1 cooling rack set over a baking tray to drain the tempura

chopsticks to mix the batter


You will need:

For the tempura:

1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1 yam, peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1 onion, peeled and cut into rings

1 small eggplant, sliced into rings about 1/4 inch think. Cut each ring in half

1 dozen large shrimps, deveined, tails on, flattened*

canola oil for frying

* To flattened the shrimp, make an shallow cut along the back of the shrimp and press it down to flatten it.


For the batter:

1 large egg, cold

150ml iced water

200g of flour, cold (leave four in the fridge to chill it)


For the tempura sauce:

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1 tablespoon of mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

1/4 cup of bonito flakes


Make the sauce:


Put all ingredients in a saucepan and gently simmer for about 2 minutes. Strain and discard solids. Set aside.


Make the batter:

In a medium size bowl, lightly beat the egg, add the water and  mix it well. Add the flour and mix it using two chopsticks. Do not over mix it, leave a few lumps of flour. If the oil is hot and the vegetables and shrimp are ready, dip each into the batter and fry until the outside is golden and looking crispy. The vegetables will first sink to the bottom of the wok (or large pot) and rapidly come to the top. Drain in a cooling rack set over a baking tray. Serve immediately with the sauce for dipping.


Note: keep all ingredients chilled until you are ready to fry the tempura. I first prepared the veggies and shrimp, then left them in the fridge while the oil heated and I prepared the batter. If the oil is not ready by the time you finish the batter, leave in the fridge as well until ready to use.





Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vegetarian Pho

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veg pho 3

Six years ago I didn't know what Vietnamese food was.  I had never seen any Vietnamese restaurant in Brazil or anywhere else.  Andrew was the one who introduced me to this cuisine, and now we both enjoy going out for Pho and salad rolls. Since  not many Vietnamese restaurants serve vegetarian pho soup, I decided to make my own broth at home. It was easier than I thought. If you ever did a vegetable broth, than you can make veggie pho. Everything goes in a large pot for boiling, then strained and served over rice noodles and your favourite pho fixings.

Bonus points for this recipe for filling the house with wonderful aromas of anise, cinnamon and cloves.

veg pho 2


Vegetarian Pho Recipe:

serves 4

You will need:


For the broth:

1 onion, peeled and halved

1 large piece of ginger

2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 quarts water

2 small leeks, well washed

5  star anise

1 cinnamon stick

10 whole cloves

1 tbs coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)

1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce (or to taste)

2 tablespoons of salt (or to taste)


For assembling the soup:

1 package of banh pho (rice noodles)

4 oz of canned straw or button mushrooms

8 oz of fried tofu pieces

1 tablespoon of canola oil

4 oz of fresh shitake mushrooms, sauteed in oil

1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped



bean sprouts

Thai basil

sliced onions

green  or red pepper, sliced

lime wedges

hoisin sauce


Make the broth:

First, grill the onion and ginger on a a barbecue grill until charred. You can do this in the oven broiler as well.

Once the onions and ginger are browned, place all broth ingredients, except soy sauce, salt and sugar,  in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook it over medium heat for about 45 minutes. Season with sugar, soy sauce and salt to taste. Strain the broth and return to pot. Keep warm.


Make the noodles:

Cook the noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes or until soft. Drain and rinse with cold water . Divide the noodles into 4 large soup bowls.


Assemble the soup:

Divide the tofu, canned mushrooms, shitake mushrooms and cilantro evenly among the 4 bowls. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles and mushrooms and top it with beans sprouts, Thai basil, onions and other toppings you might want. Enjoy it hot.



 veg pho 5

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin and Coconut Sweet (doce de abóbora com coco)

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pumpkin coconut sweet

This is such a perfect dish to cook on a November day when pumpkins are in season and the crisp air outside makes us want to stay in, turn on the stove and cook something warm and comforting.

This dish is really simple to make and it fills the house with wonderful aromas of cinnamon and cloves while it slowly simmers. The ingredient list couldn't be shorter: pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon cloves and coconut. This is a very typical Brazilian dessert and it's normally served with a slice of fresh cheese. Here in the States I pair it with feta cheese and it makes for such a treat.

Pumpkin and coconut sweet recipe:

makes about one 16 oz container

You will need:

2 lb of pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into large chunks

2 cups of sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

10 whole cloves

16 oz of shredded coconut

Put all ingredients, except the coconut, in a large pot and cook on medium-low heat until the pumpkin is very soft, about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.Add the coconut, mix well and remove from heat. You can mash any large pieces of pumpkin with a potato masher, or, if you prefer, leave it more chunky.

When it's cooled down a bit, transfer it to an air tight container and store it in the fridge. Serve it cold or at room temperature. I like to eat this sweet with a slice of feta cheese, or spread over a piece of crusty bread, always accompanied by a good cup of coffee.

Enjoy it!

pumpkin coconut sweet 1