Well yesterday was National Tempura Day! A traditional battered dish made in Japan, Tempura was originally brought over to Japan from Portugal in the sixteenth century. It is a popular dish because it is still delicious while being reasonably healthy.
Tempura is made by deep frying vegetables, fish, shrimp or egg in a light batter. The batter is made from cold water and wheat flour although other ingredients can be used such as eggs, baking soda, oil or spices depending on your taste to change the flavour of the tempura. It can be eaten on its own or as a side dish to a main course of noodles in soup stock or curry.
Because Tempura is only lightly fried, and the batter is made from a special grade of wheat flour which is normally low in gluten, it is still a healthy dish, while being delicious and easy to eat. If you are thinking of making your own tempura, why not try these few tips for extra crispiness and deliciousness!
Use cold or ice water when making the batter
As this prevents the batter from absorbing too much oil, which can lead to the tempura becoming soggy and greasy. Crispy tempura is better!
Make it up on the spot!
Sometimes it is good to prepare foods ahead of time. A lot of Japanese food has to be prepared beforehand so that it has enough time to mature, or so that the food is safe to eat. However with tempura, it is better not to prepare the batter beforehand. Making it right before you plan to cook it is best!
The ideal temperature for frying tempura is between 170 and 180 degrees Celsius (340-360 Fahrenheit), and a way to test this is to drop a little bit of batter into the oil. If the batter bobs down into the oil and then comes up, instead of coming straight to the top, it is at the right temperature.
The order and between batches
If you are frying vegetables and seafood it is better to fry vegetables first, then seafood. There will be leftover batter that will simply fry in the pan when you cover the vegetables or seafood. This is known as Tenkasu and should be scooped out with an Ami Jakushi or small strainer, in order to keep them from burning and thus ruining the flavour of the oil. These Tenkasu can be used in other noodle and soup dishes.
Try your hand at cooking your own batch of tempura, or if you are planning a trip to Japan, it is certainly a simple dish that most will enjoy! There are several thousand great restaurants within walking or driving distance by a Shinjuku hired car in Tokyo and other main cities in Japan, and as Tempura is such an easy dish it is normally included in a main meal or as a supplement in noodle or Udon dishes. Itadakimasu!