Kakiage is a very popular kind of tempura in Japan, especially in the home because different ingredients (usually leftovers) are mixed together in tempura batter before deep-frying. Various vegetables, onion, carrot, burdock root, trefoil, mushrooms, and all kinds of seafood can be used - there are no restrictions.
The main difference between kakiage and other forms of tempura is that whole eggs are used for better consistency and taste. Kakiage is often served over a bowl of freshly steamed rice.
In restaurants, depending on the level of the chefs, all kinds of kakiage are served and make for hearty meals. Shizuoka has a specialty that everyone in Japan wishes to sample.
The difference between good and bad tempura lies in the batter itself. You don’t want to have a soggy oily tempura that leaves you with a greasy taste in your mouth. You want the tempura to be light and crispy, having a good crunchy sound on the first bite and keeping you wanting more. Here's how:
- Always mix the tempura batter with chopsticks or a spoon, never a whisk. Overmixing the batter can make it heavy.
- Only use icy-cold water for the tempura batter to make it stick together better and absorb less oil.
- The oil must be very hot before you drop in the batter. Test it first with just a bit of the batter. If the batter floats to the surface with a slight frying sound, the oil is ready.
- The vegetables and the seafood should be cut to the same size to create a consistent texture.
- If you keep the tempura to a smaller size, you'll get a better crunch, and the inside will be fully cooked.
- Drain all the excess oil after frying the tempuras. You don’t want to have oily tempuras.
- Tempura is best when eaten fresh. If you make it before-hand, or if you have some left over, you can heat it again by dipping it in the hot oil for just 30 seconds to make it crispy again.
Fill a bowl with leftover rice (cold, but not chilled), place the kakiage on top. Top the kakiage with thinly cut dry seaweed, and pour hot green tea onto the rice. It is called: “Kakiage Chazuke”!
- 1 onion (thinly sliced, about 2 cups)
- 1/2 large carrot (cut into thin strips, 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 lb. scallops (shredded)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup water (ice)
- 1 cup flour (all-purpose)
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil (for frying, or as needed)
- Cut the vegetables into thin strips, about 2 inches each, and all of the same size. Cut the seafood, whether cuttlefish or shrimp or tuna, into the same size strips.
- Beat an egg in a large bowl.
- Add ice water in the bowl. Add sifted flour in the bowl and mix lightly.
- Heat oil to 340 degrees F in a deep pan.
- Add onion slices, carrot strips, and scallops in the tempura batter, and mix together.
- Take a scoop of the mixture with a large spoon and slip into the oil.
- Shape the piece, using chopsticks or a cooking tong until firm.
- Deep-fry until browned on both sides.
- Drain and serve with tempura dipping sauce.