The first time Rob and I actually made tempura was in an Asian cooking themed cooking class at Sur la Table. We took this class way before I started working on the blog, but I was already pretty into cooking. The class taught us a lot about techniques and we made some great food, but it was also the first time we had ever fried anything.
We fry things more regularly now, but tempura is pretty uncommon. We ended up doing this tempura because Rob saw Squash Blossoms at our farmers market. He had a rough idea of what to do with them (watching Food Network and Chopped they always get stuffed and/or fried). So we brought them home.
For the squash blossoms at least he ended up stuffing them with a chorizo, onion, and manchego cheese mix before frying them. That won’t really be the highlight of this post, but the flavors were great and I totally recommend that as a veggie stuffer (think roast peppers!).
Tempura is interesting, the whole idea is to get a light flaky batter on the outside. That requires a few tricks when making the batter. Alton Brown made a whole special on the science behind Tempura and I found it fascinating. If you can find that online, its worth a watch. Actually, Good Eats in general was just awesome.
The key is to not over mix and avoid using regular water. The first is self explanatory, just whisk lightly but allow some clumps to remain. For the water, regular water starts the production of gluten and that is bad for the light flaky texture. To combat this avoid water; the best tricks use seltzer water and vodka. Use a mix of those two and your batter should turn out perfectly. Also use bread flower if you have it; its lower in gluten and doesn’t get as gummy.
For veggies, I generally recommend things like carrots, green beans, or zucchini. Go for veggies with a uniform size or that slice into easy to eat strips. They should cook through, but you don’t want them to get soggy and flimsy. Just keep that in mind when slicing, thin but not too thin!
- Canola Oil
- 1 Cup Bread Flour
- 1 Tbs Cornstarch
- 2/3 Cup Seltzer Water cold
- 1/3 Cup Vodka cold
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Zucchini cut into thin strips
- Green Beans
- Sweat Potato cut into thin strips
- Squash Blossoms
- In a dutch oven or high walled saute pan, heat about 2-2.5 inches of canola or veggie oil to about 360 degrees.
- Combine the dry ingredients (along with a pinch of salt) with the seltzer and vodka. Do not make the batter until right before you are ready to start frying, this will prevent gluten formation.
- Very gently stir (don’t whisk or mix vigorously), you want a slightly clumpy mix.
- Coat the veggies (basically dip) and fry in batches until golden brown, about 5 minutes max.
- Fry like veggies or similar sizes. Do not put in overly large batches as the oil temperature will drop and the frying will not occur correctly. Temperature management is the hardest part fo frying!
- Use a slotted spoon or spider to remove from the oil and let excess oil drip off.