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Tempura, the classic Japanese dish of lightly battered and fried vegetables and seafood, reflects all the essential qualities of Japanese cooking using the freshest ingredients and paying close attention to the details and techniques employed. The best tempura is light, crispy, and not greasy. Making it is really not that complicated and is best done as a group activity, so rally the troops. Round up a few hands to cut vegetables while you dip and fry. You'll be an expert at making tempura in no time. From the Take-Out Menu Cookbook.
- 1 tablespoon ichiban dashi (see Japanese Take-Out Miso Soup recipe)
- 2 tablespoons mirin or 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons sake or 3 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
- 1 (1 inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated (1 teaspoon)
- 1 large egg
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
- 1 cup club soda, chilled
- 3⁄4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1⁄4 cup cornstarch
- 1 zucchini, cut on the diagonal into 12 slices, no more that 1/4-inch thick
- 1 yellow squash, cut on the diagonal into 12 slices, no more than 1/4-inch thick
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 12 slices, no more than 1/4-inch thick
- 1 head broccoli, separated into medium-sized (two-bite)
- 1⁄2 small red onion, peeled, cut in half, then sliced into 1/4-inch slices
- 12 small mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp cloth and cut in half if large
- 12 medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and butterflied
- 6 scallops, cut in half horizonally
- lemon wedge, for serving
- grated daikon radish, for serving
- To make the dipping sauce: Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add the dashi. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Let cool and serve at room temperature.
- In a 2-3 quart pot set over medium-high heat, heat 2 inches of oil to 360º.
- To make the batter: Combine the egg and salt in a medium bowl and beat with a fork until mixed. Add the club soda and stir gently to mix. Sift the flour and cornstarch into the egg mixture and, using chopsticks or the handle of a wooden spoon, stir briefly to mix. Do not overmix. There will be lumps. It should be the consistency of heavy cream.
- To fry the tempura: Working with one type of food at a time, dip the vegetables, shrimp, or scallops in the batter one at a time, letting the excess batter fall back into the bowl. Carefully slide them into the hot oil. Work fast and fry no more than 6 or 7 pieces at a time to prevent the oil from plunging in temperature.
- Turn the pieces when they are slightly golden on the bottom, about 1 minute. Fry on the second side for about 30 seconds to 1 minute and carefully remove with a spider (an Asian-style slotted spoon) or slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
- Here are some approximate frying times:.
- Zucchini = 1 1/2 minutes.
- Yellow squash = 1 1/2 minutes.
- Sweet potato = 2 minutes.
- Broccoli florets = 1 1/2 minutes.
- Small red onion = 1 1/2 minutes.
- Small mushrooms = 1 1/2 minutes.
- Shrimp = 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Scallops = 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Return the oil to 360º and carefully add another 6 or 7 pieces of tempura.
- Fry the remaining ingredients in the same manner.
- Serve the tempura hot with the dipping sauce, or with salt and freshly squeezed lemon. Grated daikon should be served alongside the fried vegetables. It can be added to the dipping sauce or on top of the vegetables.
- Variation: Other vegetables to try are carrots, asparagus, and green beans. Cook them first in boiling water for about 1 minute, then put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Line up 4 or 5 carrots, asparagus, or green beans, side by side, and run a wooden skewer through them to connect. Dip them in the batter and fry them, then remove the skewer after frying. Other seafood possibilities include cod, crab and squid.
- Make ahead: The dipping sauce can be kept for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.