Batter fried items are common in many Western Cuisines, you only need to think about the ubiquitous fish n chips which is loved by all and served everywhere. For those who might want an alternative to traditional beer battered fish why not give Japanese tempura batter a go … it is light, crispy and so easy to make, but best of all – it makes most seasonal produce taste a little bit special.
The secrets to making great Tempura every time are simply:
1. Don’t over work the batter.
2. Always use very hot oil.
3. Don’t over crowd items when frying them.
There are many variations for tempura batter, some use corn flour or self-raising, others use soda water or sparkling mineral water and some even add bicarbonate soda or baking powder. My version uses items found in every kitchen – an egg, tap water and some regular plain flour.
Makes – 4 Serves
Tempura Batter Ingredients
1 cup cold water (very cold)
¾ cup plain flour (sifted)
vegetable or canola oil for frying
a selection of fresh fish/seafood and/or seasonal vegetables cut into manageable bite size pieces.
You should prepare your fish/seafood and vegetables prior to making your batter so everything is ready to commence frying once the batter is made.
Common vegetables used in tempura are sliced carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin, cauliflower or broccoli fleurettes, asparagus, capsicum and aubergine (sliced, halved or whole – depending on size).
1. Crack the egg into a medium size bowl and break yolk and white areas with a fork – just hold the fork vertically and whisk it back and forth a few times.
2. Next, add the very cold water and whisk the water and egg vigorously with the fork so they combine and some bubbles form on the liquid’s surface (about 1 minute).
3. Then add the flour in one amount and combine it into the liquid. Try to combine the flour into the liquid quickly and with limited whisking using the fork – some lumps are okay. Set aside for 5 minutes whilst the oil is heating.
4. For good tempura you need to have a good quantity of oil in your pan (at least 3 or 4 cm) so items deep fry rather than shallow fry. Further, the oil has to be very hot but not smoking hot. You can test it by dropping a small amount of batter onto the surface and see if it floats and sizzles, if it sinks or doesn’t have bubbles all around its surface it is not hot enough.
5. Once the oil is hot enough, dust the items to be dipped in the batter with some plain flour and dip them in the batter. The flour dusted surface will help the batter adhere to the fish or vegetables. Take the dipped item and gently place it into the oil and repeat.
DO NOT overcrowd items as you fry, you want them to have space to move around as they float.
It is also best that you start with the hard vegetables first, then move onto the softer vegetables and end with the fish or seafood and to cook them in batches.
6. As the items fry gently turn them over, so they become lightly golden all over. When coloured evenly remove to a warmed plate tray lined with absorbent paper and repeat until all items are cooked.
7. Arrange items on individual serving plate and serve immediately whilst still warm.
Traditionally, tempura is served with a tentsuyu dipping sauce made from a combination of dashi (a Japanese stock), soy sauce, mirin and sugar.