Making the assorted tempura you see in this previous post.
Veggies. Sweet potato and kabocha pumpkin sliced finely. Otherwise, pre-cooking would be required,
Onion, kakinoki-take (persimon tree mushrooms) and shishito cook quickly.
Oysters are more often prepared as “fried oysters” with bread crumbs, but the tempura variation exists.
kaki furai (oysters fried with bread crumbs)
Seafood. Oysters are shelled and rinsed. Calamari is cut, you can take out the skin (as it retracts while frying, but you loose the red color). The shrimps : the tails are kept, the long black intestine is taken away. As shrimps and calamari curl, you need to support them with toothpicks or whatever, and then take away the picks before serving (pro style). I simply made them skewers (kushi katsu style).
Koromo (tempura batter, Japanese classic recipe) :
ice cold water
a cold egg
cold all purpose flour
(in Summer, store the flour a few hours in the fridge)
In a cup (it’s 200 ml in Japan), break the egg and complete with water. Pour in a bowl, whisk the egg and water.
Add 1 cup of flour, beat roughly. You want to get some lumps on flour still floating in the batter. These lumps will become the tempura blossoms.
Dip one item, fry…etc. You can add a little more flour each few items to get new lumps if they are all dissolved.
This is the classic recipe they teach at school -yes, there are cooking classes. And that’s what most pros do too. You improve your tempura by training at it, getting a better gesture, adjusting the amount of flour. I have margin for improvement…
There exist alternative recipes for “vegan meals” (that the monks eat once in a blue moon, for occasions), and for health reasons, also for non-fried “tempura like” recipes. Otherwise, there is no reason, I think, to change the basic.
That said, supermarkets sell “tempura mix”, some powder that are supposed to be easier to use. Easier ? Some have the eggs included. Easier than breaking your own egg surely. Most have flavorings and MSG. They give less good tempura, in my taste. I am not convinced of the interest of such products.
I fry everything at about 160~170 degree Celsius, but it’s the approximative temperature regulated by my stove. A thermometer is useful if you don’t have a thermostatic system on your stove, it shows you if the oil temperature varies… but you still have to try and judge the aspect. A way is to pour a few drops of batter and see if they stay white (too cold), slowly turn to yellow-golden (good) or become brown quickly (too hot).
Normally, veggies require a lower temp (160) and little longer time than seafood. But I cut the veggies thin to fry everything the same way…
WARNING : tempura is a major cause of death in Japan.
No kidding. It’s not poisoning (well don’t keep the oil for years). It’s not people burning themselves while frying (be careful anyway). Most dramas happen because people get house fires.
WHAT YOU SHOULD NEVER DO :
NEVER make a mountain of fried food on a big deep dish. Because the temperature of the block of food concentrates at the center of it. And lots of food produce extremely high central temperature. It takes fire spontaneously. The dish is full of flames in a few seconds, then the kitchen, the house… They have video demonstrations that pass regularly on TV, that the firemen show around regularly. Fire start suddenly and violently.
HOW TO BE SAFE : Lay the fried food on large flat dishes or grills. Do not pile them ever. It won’t take fire by itself.
I didn’t know that before coming to Japan. We made mountains of French fries in my family and never knew that and never had a fire.
Maybe because we eat them all so fast just after frying ? Well don’t take chances. It’s nothing to do to lay the fries flat.
Another style of tempura “kaki-age” :