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Learn how to make Tempura, one of the most iconic foods of Japan! japan.recipetineats.com
Tempura
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 
Tempura is one of the best known foods of Japan. This is a traditional Japanese recipe, made with an authentic batter (ie no baking soda or baking powder). A great tempura has a crunchy coating that is light and delicate, never heavy and oily. Tempura can be made with a wide variety of vegetables and seafood. This recipe is for a variety of tempura. Feel free to make more or less of whichever ones you want – for example, if you can’t get all the ingredients. Prep time does not include the time to chill batter ingredients overnight.
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: 4 servings
Author: Yumiko
Ingredients
Dipping Sauce (Note 1)
  • 180ml (6 oz) dashi stock
  • 3 tbsp mirin
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp grated daikon (white radish)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
Tempura Ingredients
  • 1 small eggplant (about 80g (2.8oz), Note 2)
  • 50g (2 oz) enoki mushrooms (Note 3)
  • 4 strips of 5cm x 1cm (2 x 2/5”) yaki nori (roasted seaweed) (Note 3)
  • 50g (2 oz) carrot
  • 4 shiso leaves (Japanese perilla, Note 4)
  • 12 prawns (shrimps) (Note 5)
  • Oil for deep frying (Note 6)
Batter (Note 7)
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml (6.5 oz) cold water
  • 240ml (8.1 oz) flour
Instructions
Dipping Sauce
  1. Add dashi stock and mirin to a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Add soy sauce and as soon as it starts boiling, turn the heat off and put aside until required.
Preparing for Tempura Ingredients
  1. Eggplant: Discard the head of the eggplant, then cut it lengthwise in half. Halve each piece again by cutting perpendicularly to the first cut. Place them skin-side up on a cutting board and slice each piece into lengths of 5mm (¼”) width, keeping the narrow end of the eggplant piece intact for about 1.5cm (½”), so that it will become like a fan.
  2. Enoki mushrooms: Divide the enoki mushrooms into 4 bunches. Take a strip of yaki nori and wrap it around the root end of a bunch to keep the stems together. Wet the end of the yaki nori strip to glue it.
  3. Carrots: Julienne the carrots into matchsticks of 5cm (2”) length.
  4. Prawns (shrimps): Remove the head, peel and devein prawns (Note 8), leaving on the last segment and the tail. Make 3 slits at equal intervals on the underside of each prawn to stop them from curling when cooked.
Mixing Batter (do this while oil is heating)
  1. Add the egg and cold water to a bowl or measuring cup, and mix well until there is no cluster of egg white.
  2. Add two thirds each of the egg mixture and the flour to a separate bowl, and gently mix by drawing the number 8 several times, leaving powdery lumps of flour. Keep the remaining egg mixture and flour in the fridge, as they will be added later (Note 9).
Frying
  1. Fill a deep frypan or pot with oil up to a minimum depth of 3cm (1¼”) and heat the oil to 170C (335F). Drop a tiny amount of batter onto the surface, and if it hardly touches the bottom and returns to the surface, it is at the right temperature.
  2. Cook the same ingredients together unless you are serving one person at a time. The order can vary, but prawns should be cooked last. Cook in batches but do not cover more than 30-40% of the surface area of the oil with the tempura. Ingredients should be patted dry before dipping in the batter.
Vegetables
  1. Eggplants – dip in the batter to coat the entire eggplant piece, then drop it gently into the oil one by one. Cook for about 45-60 seconds until the eggplant tempura comes to the surface and you can see large bubbles around it. Flip it over and cook for a further 45 seconds or so until the eggplant becomes light when lifted and very lightly browned, then transfer to a wire rack.
  2. Enoki mushrooms – hold at the root with a yaki nori strip and dip the enoki in the batter, without letting go so that the yaki nori strip is not coated. Drop it gently into the oil and cook for 10-20 seconds. Flip it over and cook for few seconds. Transfer to a wire rack.
  3. Shiso leaves – hold the end of the stem and dip only the back side of the leaf into the batter, then drop the whole leaf into the oil, making sure that the battered side is facing the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5-10 seconds and transfer to a wire rack.
  4. Carrots – add all the carrot sticks to the batter. Take about a quarter of them and place on a flat wooden spatula, then slide them into the oil while holding them together. Cook for about 60 seconds until the carrot tempura comes up to the surface and you can see large bubbles around it. Flip it over and cook for a further 45-60 seconds, then transfer to a wire rack.
Prawns
  1. Add remaining egg mixture and flour to the batter and gently mix just like the first time. Try not to mix with the batter left at the bottom of the bowl too much as they are now glutinous.
  2. Increase the temperature of the oil to 180C (350F). At this temperature, when you drop a tiny amount of batter it will surface straight away.
  3. Hold a prawn by the tail and dip it into the batter, leaving the tail uncoated. Drop it gently into the oil and cook for about 60 seconds, until it comes to the surface and you can see large bubbles around it. Flip it over and cook for a further 45-60 seconds, then transfer to a wire rack.
Serving (Note 10)
  1. Place one piece each of eggplant, enoki mushroom and carrot tempura onto the plate. Place three prawns tail-side up, then a shiso tempura. Repeat for the other three servings.
  2. Take a quarter of daikon per serving and gently squeeze out any water, then place it to the side of the tempura. Add a quarter of the ginger on top of the daikon.
  3. Serve immediately with dipping sauce in a small bowl.
Recipe Notes

1. Please refer to Home Style Japanese Dashi Stock for how to make dashi stock.

The flavour of the dipping sauce is not as strong as in some other recipes. The ratio of dashi stock, mirin and soy sauce is 4:1:1 respectively. You could change this ratio to 3:1:1 if you prefer a stronger flavour.

2. I bought a small eggplant about 12cm (4¾”) long, 4cm (1½”) wide. If you can find shorter eggplants, you can use two and skip the step to halve the length, ie. the second cut in my recipe.

Common eggplant sold in Sydney is rather large, about 15-18cm (6-7”) long, 6-8cm (2½-3”) wide. This is not suitable for preparation as described above. If you can only find a large eggplant, you could simply slice it into 5mm (3/16”) thick bite sizes.

3. You can substitute enoki mushrooms with shiitake if you like. Then you won’t need yaki nori to tie the stems together. In the case of shiitake mushrooms, it will look prettier if you do not cover the entire mushroom cap with the batter, so that the colour will show when fried.

4. Shiso is a Japanese perilla, a herb with a quite distinctive fragrance. It has broad leaves of about 8cm x 6cm (3⅛” x 2⅜”). There are red shiso leaves as well as green shiso leaves, but the green ones are used for tempura. More details can be found in Wikipedia.

You can buy shiso leaves at Japanese grocery stores. You might find perilla leaves in Asian grocery stores or Asian vegetable shops, but they are most likely the Korean perilla leaves, which are larger and quite different from the Japanese perilla.

5. I used medium prawns about 40g (1.5 oz) each before removing head and shell. Any smaller than this would not be recommended. If quite large, you could reduce the number to two per serve and the cooking time would be longer.

6. Use vegetable oil or canola oil. You could also add a small amount of sesame oil to add flavour to the tempura if you like. Professional tempura chefs do mix sesame oil to the frying oil. Olive oil is not suitable.

7. It is extremely important to keep the batter cold. I measured the ingredients and then left them in the fridge overnight, even the flour.

The quantity (volume) of flour required to make the batter is the same as that of the egg mixture (water + egg). That’s why the flour is measured in volume, not in weight in the ingredients list. Depending on the size of the egg, you can adjust the amount of flour. If you are making a smaller quantity, you could just use an egg yolk.

8. If the vein does not come out by pulling it from where the head was, you can use a toothpick to remove the vein by piercing the middle of the back and lifting up the vein gently.

You do not make a slit along the back of the prawn to remove the vein when preparing for tempura.

9. I saved one third of the batter ingredients to be added after the carrots are fried. This is because by the time the carrot sticks are battered, the batter would have activated gluten a lot and become heavy batter, making crisp lightly battered prawn tempura difficult to achieve.

10. There are no rules as to what should be placed where, but when plating, try to give height with the prawns by leaning them against each other. After all, prawns are the king of tempura!

Grated daikon and ginger may be added to the dipping sauce before eating. You don’t have to add these, as it is yummy even without them.

Alternatively, you could serve all of the tempura on a large plate to share, accompanied by daikon and ginger in a separate bowl, with dipping sauce for individual.

11. To make vegetarian tempura, make it with vegetables and using konbu dashi stock (please refer to Varieties of Dashi Stock) for dipping sauce.