Historians will tell you that tempura was introduced to Japan in the 16th century, by Portuguese traders. These days, nobody in Japan would dream of calling tempura foreign food, though: we think of it as quintessentially Japanese.
Deep fried bits of meat, shrimp or vegetables are not, of course, the first thing that pops into foreign people’s minds when they think of Japanese cooking. But tempura is a much loved treat throughout Japan: after all, even the healthiest diet should have some fried things in it once in a while!
Ingredients (for two)
- 1 egg
- 1/3rd of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 a cup of milk
- 1/2 a tea-spoon of salt
- Your favorite meat shrimp or vegetables
In these photos: 200 g. chicken breast
- 6 Shiso leaves (known also as perilla) and/or
- half a sheet of sushi nori seaweed,
- half a small pumpkin and 6 okra.
- You could also use renkon (lotus root), onion, sweet poteto, and eggplant.
- About a cup of cooking oil for deep-fry
- Worcestershire Sauce or salt at table
- Prepare some newspaper to absorb excess oil. Don’t use kitchen paper: newspaper is the best for tempura.
Preparing the batter
- Mix salt and flour
- Add the egg and mix a little bit
- Add the milk and mix a little bit
- Resist the urge to mix too much, the batter should not be homogenous.
Preparing the fillings
- Peel pumpkin and scoop out the pumpkin’s seeds. Slice them small.
- Cut chicken quite thin
- Wrap chicken either in shiso leaves or sushi-nori
- Add oil to a pot until it’s about 3-4 cm. deep
- Heat oil on medium flame – tempura oil must not be too hot
- Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a tiny bit of batter into it: as soon as it starts to sizzle, it’s ready.
- Drop meat in the batter.
Don’t worry if the batter covers the meat or vegetables completely: in fact, in real tempura, the batter should not cover everything homogeneously.
- Drop meat in the hot oil, turning them now and again.
Don’t let the oil get too hot: if it’s too hot, you could have the things raw but burnt. Cook slowly so that temura turns light and crunchy.
- When ready, retrieve and place on newspaper to absorb excess oil.
Cook meat for about 10 minutes, vegetables depending on their characteristics.
To test if the tempura is ready, pick up a piece with chopsticks. If you can feel it vibrating from the sizzle, it’s about done.
- Repeat from 1 to 3 with vegetables.
- If you cooked in batches, the first batch risks getting cold while the second batch cooks. In that case, refry the first batch at a slightly higher temperature: that makes everything crunchier.
click to enlarge
Season at the table with either salt or – and this is not a joke – Worcestershire Sauce. Trust me, it’s delicious that way.
Tonight, my husband and I had tempura alongside miso soup with taro and tofu, as well as – and this is important – beer. It’s not a real tempura dinner without beer.