Tempura batter recipe and the secrets to a perfect Japanese tempura
The tempura is one of the most typical Japanese dishes: it is a characteristic type of fry that, both to the touch and to the taste, is much lighter than the classic and much more crispy. Tradition says that the tempura was born following contacts between the Japanese and the Christians, originated from the word “tempora” which indicated the days of the week when only fish and vegetables could be eaten.
In the original recipe, the tempura is vegetarian and vegan (clearly if it does not include fish) but also gluten-free: in fact, it uses only rice flour and no other additional ingredients, except for water. In the West, tempura is often prepared with all purpose flour or similar, but the result, as for crispness and lightness, is totally different.
The secrets to a perfect tempura
According to tradition, the batter should be worked very little and never with a whisk. Water and flour should be processed only with the classic Japanese sticks or with a fork: if lumps will remain, they should be left because they will help to make the tempura more crispy.
The batter should always be kept cold or fresh and it is no coincidence that in Japan many use metal bowls and place the batter bowl in a different bowl containing ice. Even vegetables and fish should be used cold. This is because once they are soaked in batter and then in oil, the difference in temperature with hot oil will generate an effect such that the batter will be fixed on the vegetables or fish without soaking in oil.
The best oil for tempura
The oil that is traditionally used is that of sunflower seeds, which lends itself well, to lightness and a not too accentuated flavor, to the tempura. If sunflower oil is not available, a seed oil should be used.
Temperature of the oil
The oil must be brought to a maximum temperature of 180°C/356°F which must remain the same all the time. For this re, son a few pieces should be cooked at a time and the batter residues must be removed from the oil using a spoon. In addition, if the oil starts to make the bubbles must be replaced because it has reached a temperature too high, not suitable for this type of frying.
The perfect pan
The Japanese prepare their tempura in the wok because of its shape that allows the oil to be uniformly heated. If you do not have a wok available, use a saucepan so that you can heat the oil better than a pan where, due to the shape of the tool, you can not heat a lot of oil.
Once the cooking has begun, pour a little batter with your fingers onto each piece in frying. In this way, the tempura will be even more crispy. Remember not to continuously turn the ingredients while cooking but let them fry and touch them only when needed. Another precaution: if you fry vegetables and fish in tempura, remember to start from the first. If you start from fish, your oil could change its organoleptic characteristics and therefore no longer be in the best condition for frying vegetables.
Once ready, the tempura should be left to rest for a few seconds on a wire rack so that any remaining oil drains. The absorbent paper can be used but in case the fry is too hot, it may happen that it remains attached to the paper.
Can I use the ready-made tempura mixture?
On the market, you can find bags with mixed flours to which only water is added to prepare the batter for the tempura. Given the extreme ease of this preparation and the fact that the products in the bag almost always contain additional ingredients not necessarily genuine (preservatives, for example), it is not worth spending money, much more than required, to buy bags of flour for tempura. Better to buy plain rice flour and work it.
Let’s move to the recipe of Japanese tempura, probably the simplest recipe ever: two ingredients, same proportions, and so on … the batter for the tempura is ready!
Ingredients for a bowl
- 100 grams cold water
- 100 grams drice flour
- Mix flour and water quickly without worrying if there are any lumps, which will help to make frying more crispy;
- Heat the oil to the right temperature;
- When the oil is hot, soak one ingredient at a time in the batter without exceeding it and placing it in the oil;
- Fry the various battered ingredients without touching or turning them continuously and until they are golden;
- Place the tempura on a wire rack and serve with soy sauce or alone.
Preparation time: 5 minutes + cooking time
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