I was lucky to learn the secret to a light and crispy tempura batter while living in Japan and it’s simple – don’t overmix the batter and use ice-cold water. Overmixing the batter will activate the gluten, leaving the batter heavy and doughy, so lumps are OK.
vegetable oil for deep-frying
lemon wedges to serve
freshly ground sea salt to serve (optional)
For the vegetable mix
80g sweet potato, cut into matchsticks with the skin still on
80g carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
50g kale, stalk removed and roughly chopped
100g onion, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons cornflour
For the batter
1 egg yolk
200ml ice-cold water
a few ice cubes
150g flour, sieved
50g cornflour, sieved
For the dipping sauce
100ml dashi stock (home-made dashi stock (pp. 52–54) or 100ml water and a sprinkle of dashi instant granules)
20ml soy sauce
grated ginger/daikon (optional)
1. Put all the ingredients for the dipping sauce into a saucepan and let them simmer for a few minutes, then set aside and let cool.
2. Mix all the vegetables in a large bowl and, using your hands, evenly coat them in cornflour, then set aside.
3. Beat the egg yolk and ice-cold water in a large bowl. Toss in a few ice cubes to keep the water cold.
4. Gradually add the flour and cornflour to the water/egg mix and then lightly mix. It’s OK to leave lumps in the batter.
5. Toss all the vegetables into the batter mix and ensure they are all equally coated.
6. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan to 170ºC (medium/high heat). Drop a bit of batter in the oil to check the temperature. If the batter rises slowly to the top of the oil, starts to sizzle and slowly turns a golden-brown colour, then the temperature is right.
7. Put a large tablespoon of the tempura vegetable mix on a large wooden spoon and slowly place in the oil against the side of the saucepan. Use a large spoon or chopsticks to slide the tempura mix off the wooden spoon and into the oil. Remove the wooden spoon slowly once the tempura mix is secure and firmly bound together.
8. Deep-fry the tempura until it is golden brown, turning a few times.
9. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
10. Serve with either the dipping sauce or lemon wedges and a sprinkle of freshly ground sea salt.
For vegetarians use a vegetarian-based dashi stock using seaweed and/or shiitake mushrooms (see page 54).
Make sure none of the ice cubes are caught in the kakiage before you place it in the hot oil.
Fiona Uyema spent three years in Japan, where she learned about Japanese food. She has appeared on TV and featured in many publications, including the Irish Independent, The Irish Times, EasyFood magazine, FOOD&WINE and the RTÉ Guide. In her cookbook ‘Japanese Food Made Easy’ Fiona shares her love of Japanese cooking, known for its health benefits and carefully balanced flavours. Using local ingredients where possible, she demonstrates how easy it is to cook Japanese food at home without spending hours preparing complicated dishes.