Who doesn’t love a light, crisp tempura batter adding an irresistible crunch to delicious vegetables, fish and seafood?
Tempura is a very ancient cooking technique that apparently was born when Portuguese Jesuits met Japanese cooks a few centuries ago.
On the face of it, it’s a very simple batter made up of only two ingredients: rice flour (preferably sifted) and sparkling water. The Japanese masters work them with chopsticks and only for a few seconds, the time that a lumpy consistency is formed: yes, you read correctly, unlike most batters, the tempura must not be smooth. Some will add a pinch of baking soda, a spoonful of sugar or an egg yolk to the two basic ingredients.
For me, the real secret for a super light, tempura is to make sure that everything is well chilled. The batter must be worked (a little) in a metal bowl placed in a larger bowl full of ice.
A similar rule must also be applied to the vegetables or fish you want to fry: it’s much better to keep them in the refrigerator until the moment before cooking. The very cold batter in contact with the boiling oil allows the food not to absorb too much oil, thus remaining light and frothy.
This process is known as the thermal shock: The temperature of the oil should be between 170C and 180C (335F-350F) and you should make sure not overcrowd the pan. Cook the tempura in small batches, and make sure the oil comes back up to temperature before adding another batch, because cooking it at too low a heat will lead to oily, soggy results. Most importantly, however: eat it hot and crisp, fresh from the pan. Try this amazing prawn tempura with a spicy dipping… you will not regret it.
Crispy Prawn Tempura with spicy dipping sauce
For the Tempura batter:
- 150g plain flour
- 150g cornflour
- 300ml chilled sparkling water
- 2 egg yolks
- ½ tsp fine salt
For the spicy dipping sauce:
- 1tbsp tomato ketchup
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2-3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
- 12 large king prawns, peeled and cleaned, tails left on
- Lemon wedges to garnish
Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside.
Half fill a large saucepan or deep fat fryer with sunflower oil and heat until a small cube of bread turns golden brown in 30 seconds. Place the flour, cornflour and salt into a bowl and mix together.
Make a well in the middle with a wooden spoon, add the egg yolks and then gradually pour in the sparkling water and mix together using chop sticks and stir until the mixture is thin and a little lumpy. This will ensure the batter is perfectly light and crisp.
When the oil is hot, dust the prawns in a little flour, shake off the excess and then briefly dip into the batter and transfer straight to the hot oil.
Fry 2 or 3 prawns at a time and fry for 1-2 minutes or until just golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Serve immediately with spicy dipping sauce and lemon wedges to squeeze over.