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Tempura is a dish that actually originated in Portugal, but was introduced to Japan in the 16th century. It usually consists of deep fried vegetables and seafood. The batter itself is very different to the traditional thick batter on fish and chips; it’s ultra-light, crisp, not greasy, and the colour is a very light brown. In Japan there are restaurants dedicated to serving just tempura and it may be served on top of rice or soba noodles.
Step by step
1. Make sure that whatever you are coating with the tempura batter is very dry. If need be, pat dry with kitchen paper. Measure out your flours and salt into a small bowl and heat the oil to 160°C for larger pieces of tempura-coated fish, 180°C for small and delicate quick-cooking ingredients like prawns.
2. Pour the cold liquid into a large bowl and tip in the dry ingredients. Poke the dry ingredients into the beer gently with the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick; don’t whisk it, as you want it really lumpy for the right texture.
3. Make sure that your oil is fully up to temperature; if you drop a little of the batter into the oil and it sizzles, it’s ready. Dip whatever you are coating with tempura batter into some extra flour in a shallow dish. Then, dip it into the tempura batter. Gently place your battered ingredient into the oil. Cook for 6-7 minutes for a large piece of fish, just a couple of minutes for prawns, 3-4 minutes for vegetables.
4. Once it has turned a very light golden brown, remove and drain on kitchen paper for a minute before serving. Scoop out any loose crispy bits of batter from the oil before frying further batches of tempura, to keep the oil clean, and make sure that it has got back up to the correct temperature.
• Make sure the liquid to make the tempura batter is suitably chilled. It’s vital that the mixture is as cold as possible and made just before frying.
• Make sure that whatever you are coating in the batter is dried thoroughly.
• Keep a constant temperature of the oil using a cooks’ thermometer. Make sure to bring it back up to temperature again before frying each piece of food, as the cold tempura will lower it.
• Do not be worried by the lumps in the batter, as they create little crispy pockets. If you over-mix your batter, gluten will develop, and that will make the batter heavy.
• You can substitute chilled sparkling water instead of beer, or even ice-cold still water.