One of my mom’s favorite Japanese dishes is shrimp tempura. What’s not to love? Tempura is deep fried seafood or vegetables served with a dipping sauce. Crispy. Salty. Perfect for an appetizer or as part of a bento box. Oh so yummy.
Every time we go to a Japanese restaurant, my mom orders shrimp tempura, and she has even started to make it at home. My mom is a good cook, but she is not that into actually cooking, so I was surprised she attempted this. It seemed so laborious. She assured me, however, that making tempura at home is easy.
This made me want to take it on, and I had the perfect opportunity to do it. John and I were having sushi night!
Whenever we have sushi night, I’m never quite satisfied with just sushi. I need something to complement the tender stickiness of the cut rolls. Tempura seemed to be just the right texture and taste to accompany the sushi.
Armed with a few tips from mom and this recipe, I embarked on making tempura at home.
First, I decided to keep it simple and work with vegetables only. I am actually not a huge fan of the traditional veggies served in Japanese restaurants, so I went with green beans (which is a huge treat that they sometimes serve), asparagus, and cauliflower. I prepped the the vegetables by cutting them into 2 to 3-bite pieces.
Then, I gathered my ingredients for the batter: flour, cornstarch, baking soda, water, and an egg. Once mixed, I had a thin, lumpy batter. This batter will fry up into a light, fluffy and crispy coating.
Once I mixed, I immediately started to fry in preheated oil. The oil is supposed to be 340-360 degrees, but since I don’t have thermometer, I just spooned in a bit of batter to test the temperature. I knew it was ready when the batter slowly rose to the top of the oil and took about 2 minutes to brown.
I placed a few veggies into the batter bowl. Then, fished them out one by one and dropped them into the hot oil. Between batches, I scooped out those crumbly bits that broke off from the veggies, so they wouldn’t get burned. Do something creative with those like use them on a salad or inside of sushi.
When the batter was golden, I grabbed out the veggies with tongs. I put them on layered paper towels to drain and sprinkled them with a bit of salt.
To serve, I placed them on top of paper bag-lined plate (so the oil continues to absorb instead of pool beneath the veggies) with a side of dipping sauce. I do not really love the traditional tempura sauce, so I used a mixture of lemon juice, mirin, and soy sauce.
Simple Vegetable Tempura
1 small head cauliflower
1 bunch asparagus
1 pound green beans
oil for deep frying (I use grapeseed or canola oil)
100 grams (about 3/4 cup) flour
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cold water
1 cold egg
Non-traditional Dipping sauce*
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin**
1/4 cup lemon juice
- Measure out the ingredients for the batter. Place the water in the refrigerator.
- Cut the cauliflower into 2-bite florets. Trim the green beans. Trim and halve the asparagus stalks. Set aside.
- Fill your pot with about two inches of oil. Begin to heat the oil over medium heat to approximately 350 degrees.
- Combine all ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small container. (I use a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring.)
- Whisk the flour, cornstarch, and baking soda in a small bowl. Add the egg and water and gently whisk until just combined.
- As soon as the batter is combined, begin frying in batches. Place 3-5 pieces of veggies into the batter. Grab them out one at a time and drop them carefully into the oil. They should sink first, then rise slowly. Once they are golden (2-3 minutes), remove them from the pan and drain on layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt to taste.
- Serve with dipping sauce.
I recommend cooking this to order. If you want to cook it all ahead of time, keep it in a warm oven until ready to serve.
*If you prefer a traditional sauce, here is a good recipe.
**Mirin is type of Japanese rice wine used for cooking. It does contain 20% alcohol, so if you prefer, you may replace the mirin with 1-2 tbs. sugar dissolved into 1/2 cup water.