Tempura has got to be the most quintessential Japanese dish. Lightly battered, crispy fried vegetables and seafood – how could you not love it! Making tempura, good tempura isn’t easy and Sam and I uncovered a few tricks whilst we were trying to create our perfect tempura.
After a little bit of background researching for this article I have discovered that unbeknown to me the origins of the dish is in fact Portuguese. It’s clear that the Japanese have worked on the art of ‘peixe frito’ since originally introduced by Portuguese merchants, to the point that getting it right is almost an art form.
Firstly the oil needs to be hot, really hot. Apparently 180 degrees hot, but without a thermometer, we just wait until it’s smoking hot.
Secondly the batter needs to be made right before use and unlike an ordinary batter, tempura batters should be made with icy water and mixed through briefly, leaving the batter with lumps.
A trick we picked up when watching Heston Blumenthal’s The Search for Perfection during his Fish & Chips episode, was after placing the battered vegetables or prawns in the hot oil, additional batter is flicked with chopsticks into the fryer, causing ‘tenkasu’ or tempura ‘rubbish’ to build. More batter means more crisp textures, which for me is the measure of good tempura.
One last tip that I have since read, but not practised is to keep the prawns looking straight (rather than curled), you can cut small slits along the underside of the prawns during prep.
Tempura prawn and vegetables
Adapted from Nobu Matsuhisa’s Tempura King Prawns Recipe from Delicious magazine
- Sunflower or vegetable oil, to deep-fry
- Large king prawns, peeled (tails intact), deveined
- Assorted vegetables (eggplant, capsicum, mushrooms, pumpkin, okra); sliced into even pieces.
- 150 ml prepared instant dashi stock
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp finely grated daikon
- 1 egg yolk
- 350 ml ice-cold water
- 1 1/3 cups (200 g) potato flour
Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients and set aside.
Whilst your oil is heating, combine the tempura batter ingredients and mix roughly, making sure there are still visible lumps in your batter.
You can test the hotness of the oil by placing some batter into the oil. If the batter floats to the surface immediately, your oil is ready to use.
Batter the vegetables and prawns and cook in batches. Using wooden cooking chopsticks, flick additional batter into the oil. The prawns and vegetables cook very quickly so you should remove immediately once the batter is crisp.
Pile the cooked tempura high on a plate and serve with the dipping sauce.
If you enjoyed this post please visit my Recipe Roll for more home cooked recipes.
Our perfect tempura.