Tempura was introduced to the Japanese by Portuguese
missionaries from the late 16th century.
It is a classic "batter
fried" food and Japan's most celebrated form of "agemono" or deep-frying
Tempura is primarily found and served as an appetizer in most sushi bars, but I find that you can make a fair
replica at home and, if you wish, serve it as the main course. I'll first discuss tempura batter and then go
into what you can put into it.
1 cup sifted flour
1 egg yolk
1 cup of ice water
Looks simple doesn't it? It is really, but here are two keys. First, do not make the batter until you are ready to dip the
ingredients in and the oil is ready. Secondly, the water needs to be cold, and I mean really cold. I usually put water in a pitcher and
put it in the freezer until it get to the point where it starts to freeze. Then I'll pour out as much as I need.
Tempura Ingredients - You'll probably want to only pick a few of these that sound tasty.
Green beans - Ends trimmed, these are easy and tasty.
Broccolli - Whole, believe it or not, these are excellent, try to get a few large pieces.
Sweet potatoes - Peeled and sliced about 1/4 inch thick. These are my personal favorites. They take slightly longer to cook.
Onions - Sliced lengthwise, and then sliced again 1/4" inch thick. Makes a much tastier onion ring.
Zucchini - Sliced 1/4 inch thick. Another tasty veggie.
Carrots - Sliced diagonally 1/4 inch thick. Not my favorite... but hey, to each their own.
Shrimp - Shelled and de-veined, but leave tails attached. Make 3-4 small scores across the belly to prevent curling. Unless
you are a strict vegetarian, you need to have shrimp tempura.... Great stuff.
White fresh fish fillet - Remove any bones, and cut fillets crosswise into bite-sized pieces. Yummy
Squid - Cut squid into 1 1/2 inch squares then cross-score the outer, smooth side. I've not tried squid yet.
Meat: - For those of you who gotta have meat.
Chicken - Cut into small 1 inch square pieces, cook until brown. Decent tasting.
Steak - Cut into small 1 inch square pieces, cook until done. Never had it, never will... Just giving you the goods.
Mixin' it all together:
Ok, so you've gotten all the fixin's together, prepared. One last item, get a small bowl of flour, a cup or two should do. Turn your oven
on to 350 degrees or there-abouts. If you have on of those low-medium-high ovens, I find that medium-high works best. Get at least a
4-quart pot and fill it half-way or there-abouts with cooking oil. Let it get to the correct temperature before starting. An even
cooking temperature is key. Let a couple drops of water drip into the oil... Does it sizzle? Then you're ready.
Got that batter ready? No? Good you listened. Mix those batter ingredients now and stir them together ever so gently. Do not
overdue it. Stir until lumpy. Do you think it still looks too lumpy? Well you're wrong, stop stirring. This is the biggest mistake
when making the batter, it needs to be lumpy. If you mix it too much it will become to heavy and turn out too greasy. Sorry for the rant there,
I just don't want you trying to impress your friends, and then you mix the batter too much. Then you'll start shouting, "Damn you Scooby!!"
at the top of your lungs. In the kitchen
no less. Do you really want to sound that foolish?
Got that batter mixed just right? Drop a bit of batter into the oil... What does it do? Does it come right back to the top? Then it's a bit too
hot, turn it down a bit. Does it sink about halfway down and then come back up? Perfect, that's what you want. Ok, grab a fixin' and dip it in
the bowl of flour you prepared earlier and shake off the excess. Now put it in the oil. Gently, unless you like hot oil splashing on you.
I personally use chopsticks for this. Some people stick little wooden skewers that you can buy for cheap in packs of a hundred through the fixin.
Whatever you think is easiest for getting the ingredients in and out of the oil, it's your call.
Ok, what you are going for here is a nice golden brown. A minute or two should suffice. You are also free to put multiple ingredients in the
pot at the same time. In fact, it's encouraged. If you find the oil is popping up too much, turn down the heat a bit. Once the tempura is golden
brown, take it out and place it on a paper-towel and wipe off any excess oil. You'll find that every so often little pieces of baby-batter
will float to the top. This will eventually clog up the cooking lanes so take a slotted spoon, or ladle and skim the surface every so often.
Cook as much as you want and enjoy! Add some tentsuyu for dipping if you can find it, or just use soy sauce.
A few pieces of shrimp, some beans, and some onions make a good appetizer. A bunch of shrimp, sweet potatoes, broccoli, beans, and onions, served
with some rice make a great meal. Throw in some toasty bread, and some wine, and you are the master chef for a night. Don't forget the sauce for