Food 101: How To Make Tempura
So we recently covered frying chicken cutlets, and how it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Today we bring you more coverage of fried chicken in the form of tempura, and how to make it. However, this isn’t the traditional fried cutlet I wrote about in my last post; rather this is a bit more exotic, though still delicious in its own right. Chicken tempura is actually closer to a chicken finger than a chicken cutlet. But hey, they’re all great, so who cares? Tempura is delicious, cheap, and the batter is the easiest recipe on Earth to remember. It has three ingredients. I shit you not, three. Since when does anything delicious have only three ingredients?!
Tempura originated in Japan as a simple side-dish, spearheaded by random-ass Portuguese missionaries in the country. Originally it was mostly made of vegetables and fish especially since Japan as a country is obsessed with fish. Eventually it grew in popularity to the point even the current Shogun at the time professed his love for it. Eventually it became a popular street food, and morphed into different forms before getting popularized worldwide. Today it often is prepared with chicken in the United States because, hey, chicken.
Because of the simplicity of tempura as a food, it’s also ridiculously versatile. You can coat anything you want in the batter, and fry it like no one’s business. Anything. Just absolutely make sure to keep your water cold, since that’s part of what makes the batter so unique and fluffy. It has to be ice water. And interestingly enough, you mix it sloppily. If you hate mixing things for a long time, this recipe is for you. Clumps in the batter? Awesome! That’s how it’s meant to be! Oh and remember how I said it’s the easiest recipe on the planet to make? Well, without further ado…
Basic Tempura Recipe
- 1 cup ice water
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg
Yup that’s it. The batter will take you all over 30 seconds to make. After that, you can simply dip whatever vegetable or meat or other food you want in there and fry them. For the purpose of this recipe, we used chicken, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Also we threw in some garlic because we’re weird and can’t eat enough garlic.
- 2-4 servings of sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, eggplant, pumpkin, bamboo, peppers, or beans, OR chicken, fish, pork, or cheese (sliced into strips, or slices)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a fork or spoon until they are smooth. Remove ice from water and add in both cold water and flour at the same time, and loosely mix until batter is mixed but clumpy.
- Cut your vegetables and/or meat into strips, slices, or small pieces.
- With a pan of hot oil heated on high flame, begin adding meat and vegetables to batter and fully coat them, then transferring them straight into oil to be fried.
- Fry meats for approximately 5 minutes on each side, and vegetables about 3-5 minutes on each side, before turning over and repeating for the bottom. The batter should be golden-yellow with very very slight tinges of tan at the edges.
- Remove tempura from the oil and place on a bed of paper towels to pat dry any oil.
Tempura is so easy to make and uses only the most basic ingredients, it’s a great knowledge asset for beginner cooks or if you’ve freshly move-out. Yet despite that simplicity, it can easily pass for borderline-fancy and swanky just because of its status as an ethnic food. Just because it’s a street food and a side-dish in Japan doesn’t mean it has to be here! Despite being served as an appetizer at most Asian restaurants, you can easily make a full meal out of it at home.
As far as servings go, the batter goes a long way. As mentioned, it’ll be enough for at least 4 servings of meat or vegetables. Worst case scenario, if you start to run low on it, just throw those three frigging ingredients into the bowl again and mix another batch together in seconds. Lastly, while this might seem obvious to me, I feel the need to point out you probably should serve it with a dipping sauce of some sort. Soy sauce works great on its own, as does hoisin sauce, however there’s other homemade sauces you can make at home to really ritz up your dinner. Between the variety in veggies or meats you can use, and the variety of sauces you can make, tempura can appeal to a pretty diverse group of people.
The greatest testament of all though to tempura? Meg and I both hate sweet potatoes, tragically, and yet we love sweet potato tempura for some reason. We don’t know why. It just works.