Tempura is an iconic Japanese dish created from seafood and veggies smothered with airy batter then deep-fried so it’s deliciously light.
Now, while tempura is a staple in Japanese restaurants all over the world, did you now you can also make tempura batter at home?
Today, we’ll show you how to go about this the easy way. It’s a super-simple recipe that is most effective if you fry the batter as soon as it’s mixed. You should serve and eat the tempura immediately to enjoy it at its best.
For a tempura better, you only need water, flour, oil, and egg. Although the recipe is undeniably straightforward, you can use a few tweaks to generate results like you would expect at a Japanese restaurant, even if you’re a first-timer to the art of tempura. Make sure the water is iced, the flour sifted, and the oil hot.
If you’re stuck for ideas for what to use with your tempura batter, pretty much anything you can deep-fry you can just as easily slip inside the batter.
Japanese tempura typically uses seafood as the protein source. Shrimp and prawn tempura are perhaps the most common. You could try using some fish fillets or chicken tenders if you fancy experimenting and giving the recipe your personal touch.
When it comes to veggies, avoid any that contain lots of moisture. Cucumber and tomato, for example, are both bad choices for this dish. Try some eggplant, broccoli, mushrooms, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. Any starchy vegetable will work well.
As an added kicker, you could even use your tempura batter to whip up some onion rings on the side.
With that overview of tempura in place, where did this stuff come from?
I. Tempura 101
It is believed that Portuguese missionaries took tempura-style batter to Japan back in the sixteenth century.
That said, the method of deep-frying food using flour batter was already established in Japan by this stage, rendering the origins of tempura open for debate.
Tempura started to become popular as a street food, and it was a favorite of the masses during the Edo period in Japan. Oil production was increasing at this time, and many food stalls started selling snack food on skewers. By the end of the Edo era, tempura shops and restaurants began springing up, and the dish became fully entrenched in Japanese cuisine.
In Japan today, the best tempura is cooked by chefs who specialize in cooking nothing but tempura frying.
Now for the fun part, then, and learning how to cook this classic Japanese dish. Before that, a few simple pointers to help you get the most out of the experience of cooking tempura at home.
II. Cooking Tips for Tempura
- Most people use an all-purpose flour for making tempura batter. You could also use a low-protein flour – cake flour, or flour mixed with corn starch, for instance
- If you’re feeling lazy, you can buy pre-mixed tempura flour, but you’ll get the best results if you make it by hand
- Stick to a ratio of 1:1 for water/egg to flour
- Ensure that all your ingredients are cold to make the cold batter you need for tempura. Using iced water helps the batter stick to the surface of the ingredients
- Never overmix the batter. All you need to do is mix it up for about 15 seconds using some chopsticks. If you overmix tempura batter, gluten starts to form. Leave some floury lumps to deliver the light and airy consistency you’re aiming for
- By making tempura batter directly before you deep-fry it, you’ll minimize the activation of gluten
III. Deep Frying for Tempura
Deep-frying is an art you’ll need to master, but it’s well worthwhile. The hot oil will bring out the sweetness and any other flavors without making the end result on your plate too greasy.
In tempura restaurants, chefs use either untoasted sesame oil, or a special blended oil. When you’re whipping up tempura at home, try any of the following:
- Canola oil
- Rice brain oil
- Vegetable oil
Always use clean and new oil rather than reusing cooking oil.
You’ll need a frying pan at least 1 inch deep, and the oil should fill up to half of the pot. The more oil you have, the more easily it will maintain its temperature throughout the frying process.
The target temperature will vary slightly depending on what ingredients you’re using, but will fall in the 320F to 360F range. You should always use a thermometer to get an accurate read on the temperature.
IV. How To Make Tempura Batter at Home
Firstly, you just need to grab a handful of simple ingredients and then you’ll be making restaurant-grade tempura in no time.
What You Need
- All-purpose flour (1 cup)
- Large egg (1)
- Water (1 cup)
- Ice cubes
What To Do
- Assemble all your ingredients
- Sift the flour in a small bowl to remove all the clumps. You want the flour light and soft. If necessary, sift the flour a second time to achieve this. Set the flour aside
- Use a medium bowl to beat the egg. You want the egg white and the yolk to be only just incorporated, so use a light touch
- Fill a coup with water and ice cubes. Strain the water using a strainer so you end up with 1 cup of iced water. Keep the ice cubes well away from your tempura batter. Add the cup of water to the bowl containing the beaten egg
- Add the flour to the bowl containing the water mixture and egg. Use some chopsticks to gently combine the mixture. Don’t overmix your tempura batter, though. It should remain slightly lumpy, so you’re not looking to achieve a silky smooth consistency here
Right, now what do you do with that batter?
V. How To Use Tempura Batter
- Lightly coat all the seafood and veggies in an all-purpose flour before you dip them into your tempura batter. This helps the ingredients to adhere more fully
- Dip your coated ingredients into the batter. Use a light touch as too much batter will leave the inside mushy and the outside too crisp
- Deep-fry your tempura between 340F and 360F
- Serve immediately with your preferred dipping sauce. Tempura batter does not respond well to being refrigerated
We hope today’s glimpse at how to make Japanese tempura batter has shown you how easy it is to enjoy this traditional eastern dish at home.
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