What is Tempura and How to Make it
So, What Exactly Is Tempura And Where Did It Come From?
Tempura is a delicious Japanese delicacy that usually consists of deep-fried vegetables or seafood in a crispy and delicious batter. It’s thought that the art of deep-frying was brought to Japan in the 16th century by Portuguese traders and it has become a staple part of Japanese cuisine. In 1543, a ship from China with three Portuguese sailors on board went the wrong way and ended up on a Japanese Island. The Portuguese sailors are said to have introduced one of their speciality dishes to Japan – green beans that were deep fried. This is where the start of tempura in Japan is said to have begun.
The word itself derives from a Latin word ‘tempora’ and it relates to times of fasting. These green deep fried beans were often eaten during Lent, when people were abstaining from meat or fish, or when people could not afford meat. They would deep-fry their vegetables so as to add extra flavor to them.
How To Make Tempura Batter
You will need:
- Ice cold water
- All purpose Flour
- And can choose to also add the following, if you wish (though a simple water and flour mix will do)
- Baking powder/soda
Tempura batter is known for being super light. While it is deep-friend, it has an amazingly delicate and almost air-like consistency. While some deep-fried dishes taste greasy and heavy, tempura is known for its delicate charm.
The batter is kept light by being made with ice cold water. Some chefs might opt to use sparkling water to make their batter even lighter. The water is mixed with a soft flour (like pastry, cake, or all purpose flour) and in some cases eggs (particularly the yolk), baking powder, baking soda, oil, starch, or spices might be added to the mix.
Some Top Tips To Make The Perfect Batter
Traditionally, the batter would be mixed in smaller batches and chopsticks are often used for stirring the mix. Interestingly, the batter is often kept lumpy and this combined with the cooler temperature makes for a super light and fluffy tempura batter. The mix should be thin, but not too runny and soggy. Think of the consistency of double cream and aim for this. Ultimately, you should be able to coat your finger in the batter.
Some chefs will even add ice to the mixture to keep it very cold. However, this can eventually lead to the batter becoming very runny, so another trick is to keep the mixing bowl in a bigger bowl of ice. It’s also very important to not over-mix the batter. This can cause an increase in the levels of wheat gluten and can make the batter too dough like. Thus, it should only be lightly stirred and kept cool to create the ultimate tempura batter.
Some shops might sell a specialized tempura batter and this will often have lower levels of gluten so that the batter doesn’t become too dough like. For gluten-free tempura, you will need to opt for a gluten-free flour.
Frying Your Tempura
The first thing you need to do is coat your veggies, or strips of seafood in the batter. The batter should cover them completely.
You’ll then want to heat your oil on the stove. People usually opt for canola oil or vegetable oil, however traditionally sesame oil or tea seed oil is used (as it is believed this makes for lighter batter). The type of oil used is down to the discretion of the chef and your personal preferences.
NB: It’s important to always watch hot oil and to handle it very carefully as it can splatter and burn you if you’re not careful.
Then deep-fry your battered veggies or seafood in the hot oil and remove quickly once the batter has cooked. If excess batter falls in the pot, simply scoop it out with a spoon so that it doesn’t burn or make the oil taste strange. The excess pieces of tempura batter that are scooped from the pot are known as tenkasu and it makes for a beautiful garnish on top of your dish. You might want to use a mesh scoop to get them out easily.
What Kind Of Ingredients Can You Make Tempura From?
So, you’ve got the perfect batter and you know how to deep-fry your delicious seafood and veggies. Here are some ideas of foods that make for delicious tempura.
- Sweet potatoes
- Bell pepper
- Green beans
- Bamboo shoots
- Sea bass
- Rock salmon
These are just a few options and of course you can get super creative and try different options and experiment. Some people opt to make tempura sushi, and you can even make tempura ice cream. Tempura simply refers to the batter used and you can get creative when it comes to making your own exciting dish.
Serving Your Tempura
Tempura is usually served with delicious dipping sauces and you can really go wild when it comes to creating interesting sauces and dips. Tempura is traditionally served with a tentsuyu sauce (part dashi, part mirin, and part shoyu) and is sometimes served with grated daikon, which is a winter radish. You could also make customized homemade dips and a sweet chilli dip is often a delicious choice with tempura.
Tempura is a brilliant dish to serve at dinner parties or tapas nights and will seriously impress all your guests. It’s perfectly suited for vegetarians, and seafood eaters alike and will melt in your mouth if you follow these steps towards creating the perfect batter.