Tempura Tips

How to Make the Crispiest Coating

Tempura
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Tempura is a Japanese dish of battered and deep-fried vegetables and seafood. They are best served hot with salt or tempura dipping sauce, commonly garnished with grated daikon radish.

Common ingredients to fry are shrimp, squid, green bell pepper, eggplant, sweet potatoes, potatoes, kabocha, carrot, mushrooms and shiso (perilla). Many of the ingredients to make tempura can easily be found at your local grocery store.

The trick to perfect tempura is to get the batter as light as possible while keeping it nice and crispy. If you know some tips, it's not so hard to make delicious tempura at home. By following a few steps you can achieve restaurant-quality tempura in your own kitchen.

The Batter

  • Use cold or ice water for the batter. This is important to prevent the batter from absorbing too much oil.
  • Use cake flour instead of all-purpose. The lower content of protein helps minimize the formation of gluten in the batter which prevents a bready crust.
  • Do not prepare the batter ahead of time--it is better to make the batter right before frying tempura.
  • Do not over mix the batter--you actually want it to be somewhat lumpy. Using a few chopsticks in a kind of stabbing motion will help combine the ingredients without mixing too much. Definitely do not use a whisk--this will activate the glutens and create a chewy coating.
  • Do not coat the ingredients with too much of the batter. While the outside is crispy, the inside could be mushy.

The Frying

  • If you are frying both seafood and vegetables, fry vegetables first, then fry seafood.
  • Lightly coat the seafood or vegetable in the cake flour before dredging in the batter. This allows the batter to adhere better.
  • The right temperature to fry tempura is around 340F to 360F. If you don't have a deep-fry (or candy) thermometer, check the temperature of the oil by dropping a little bit of batter into the oil. If the batter comes up right away instead of sinking to the bottom of the pan, it's higher than 370F. If the batter goes halfway to the bottom and comes up, it's about 340 to 360F.
  • Make sure you maintain the oil temperature by lowering or raising the heat. If the temperature is not hot enough the batter will absorb too much oil and won't get crispy; if the oil is too hot, the tempura will burn.
  • The tempura should be surrounded by bubbles as it cooks; as the bubbles get larger it means it is almost done cooking. Most ingredients only need 2 to 3 minutes a side.
  • As the tempura cooks, drizzle some batter (using your fingers) over each--this is called hana o sakaseru, and makes the tempura even crispier. (You can remove any stray fried batter with a slotted spoon and serve on top of salad or noodle dishes.)

Tempura Variations

  • Tempura Udon/Tempura Soba - Udon or soba noodles are served in hot soup with tempura toppings.
  • Tendon - Tempura is served on top of steamed plain rice.