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.
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.