Thursday, 8 March 2012

Japanese Crispy Tempura (天ぷら)

Tempura (天ぷら)
Trim the tail for presentation
Makes a few cuts in the stomach to stop it from curling
Make incisions into the aubergine and open it up like a fan
Coat in a thin layer of batter
Deep fry in hot oil
Tempura (天ぷら)
Light and crispy Tempura (天ぷら)

This is one of those dishes that I absolutely adore, but yet at the same time, don't make it quite often enough. Like all Japanese food aesthetic, it makes the best of the natural taste in the ingredients by forming a thin, veil-liked crispy texture that's light and delicate before you get into the juicy sweet centre. When done right, this is simply delicious, and quite healthy I might add. Unlike a lot of other fried food which sometimes can absorbed a lot of oil, tempura doesn't, mainly due to the fact that the batter itself is so thin.

Tempura is not that hard to prepare. There are however, a few tips that you need to watch out for in order to recreate that perfect crunch on the outside.

The oil temperature is of the utter most importance. Never overcrowd the pan when you are deep-frying as this will reduce the oil temperature drastically. The batter will therefore steamed rather than fried and you'll end up with a soggy mess. If there is a large amount of  frying to be done, do them into batches.

The batter itself, should always be lumpy, so do not, under any circumstances, over mix the batter. Always used ice cold water for the batter. I normally place the water in the ice compartment of the fridge for 30 minutes prior to using it, the difference in temperature will give a really crisp result.

If you are making an assortment of tempura with a mixture of vegetable and seafood, always fry the ingredient that will take the longest time to cook first. The vegetables will also be fry first as you will want the seafood, such as prawns and squids etc, to be as fresh as possible when served to retain their crispiness.

Lastly, always skim the oil in between frying to get rid of any floating batter bits. These will eventually burn and ruin the clarity of the oil and therefore spoil the look as well as the taste of the tempura.

I have used prawns, sweet potato, aubergines and mangetouts for this but they can be easily be replace with squids, courgettes, swede etc. Hard root vegetables should be thinly slice and any squash-like vegetables like courgette should be cut like the aubergine for an elegant presentation.


6 fresh raw prawns, shelled but leave the tails on
1 aubergine, cut into half lengthwise, then cut into 4 equal chunks
1 small sweet potato, no need to peel, cut into 5mm disc
4 mangetouts
3 tbsp grated daikon/mooli, to serve (optional)
1 tsp ground Japanese sansho/sichuan peppercorn, to serve (optional)
sunflower or vegetable oil for deep frying

For the dipping sauce:
100ml dashi
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin, Japanese sweet rice wine

For the tempura batter:
150ml ice cold water
1 free-range egg yolk
100g hakurikiko or plain flour


For the dipping sauce, put all the ingredients into a pan and heat up over a medium heat. Remove immediately once it come up to a boil. Set aside to cool.

Trim the tail end of the prawns by making a diagonal cut across the tails. This is optional but does make a better presentation. Makes about three cuts on the stomach, this stop the prawns from curling.

Makes a few cuts on one end of the aubergine and press to open them up slightly, like a fan(see photo above)

Prepare the batter. In a bowl, beat the yolk slightly with the ice cold water. Add the hakurikiko or flour and stir briefly to mix. Do not over mix, a lumpy consistency here is completely fine. This will produce a crispier result.

Half-filled a deep, heavy based pan with the sunflower or vegetable oil and heat to 170ºC, until a breadcrumb dropped in sizzled and turns golden-brown in 30 seconds. Dip the vegetables into the batter to lightly coat them, then dropped them into the hot oil to deep fry. When the batter feels crispy and the vegetables are cooked through, about 3-4 minutes, remove and drain on kitchen paper. Do this in batches if necessary, do not overcrowd the pan. Once the vegetables are done, move on to the prawns. Skim the oil during frying to get rid of any fried batter bits if possible, this will burnt otherwise if remain in the pan.

Arrange the tempura on a serving plate and serve with the dipping sauce. Ground Japanese sansho pepper can also be sprinkled over the tempura and grated daikon/mooli can be serve on the side for the diner to add to the dipping sauce if wish. 


  1. Patrick Waller9 March 2012 at 22:11

    Looks and sounds delicioius!

  2. Thanks for your kind comment. :)



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