Soba Noodles and Tempura: Daring Cooks February 2011 Challenge

February 14, 2011 in Appetizers, Entrees

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I now know what an episode of “I Love Lucy” making tempura would have been like. I have lived it.

Tempura has always seemed hard to me. One of those dishes best left to the Japanese restaurant chefs. Tempura embodies the elegance and simplicity of Japanese culture and life. So simple. Yet so complex.

Yet, I find myself grateful for the Daring Cooks challenge this month, because I NEVER would have made tempura otherwise. Not in a million years. But I am grateful that I did, if only for the knowledge of how hard it is to create the zen of the perfect tempura bite. I will appreciate this dish immensely now whenever I order it.

My whole kitchen was taken over for a whole afternoon while I tried to get the tempura just right. Bowls everywhere – batter dripped everywhere – oil spills everywhere. Flour dusting in my hair. Gloppy batter-coated fingers. Oily paper towels. Wire racks. Chopsticks. Ice cubes floating in batter. I think you get the idea. “I Love Lucy” does tempura.

Lisa from Blueberry Girl – if you’re reading this – THANKS for a very challenging challenge. I learned a lot. One of the things that I learned is that I am ordering my tempura from now on!

My boys loved this challenge, I must say. They gobbled up all the shrimp first and then even ate the veggies, too. Amazing how a thin crispy batter can make ANYTHING taste delicious. One of them smiled and said “What’s cookin’ next month, Ma?”

Here’s the recipe we followed, if you dare!

TEMPURA BATTER

1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)

Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:

  • Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
  • Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
  • Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
  • Green beans, trimmed
  • Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
  • Assorted fresh mushrooms
  • Eggplant cut into strips (traditionally it’s fanned)
  • Onions sliced

Directions:Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.

Tips for tempura – From Audax Artifex, a Daring Cook from Down Under that never fails to inspire me from month to month. His tips are always right on!

1. Try to keep the oil clean at all time use a very fine sieve to strain the oil often this stops the loose cooked pieces of tempura batter from sticking onto new pieces of uncooked tempura which spoils their appearance. Remove the remnants of batter between each batch so they don’t burn and leave a bad flavour in the oil.
2. I used rice bran oil I hate the strange fishy smell that canola oil has when used for deep frying.
3. Try to keep the batter layer thin and deep fry only until crisp do not brown to much if you can help it. A very light golden colour is fine.
4. Use a couple of ice cubes in the batter to keep it cold at all time. Only make the batter just before you need to use it as it becomes gluey if left for too long.
5. Test the heat of the oil by dropping in a small amount of batter. If it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough to use.
6. Drying on a wire rack works much better than using paper towels.
7. You can reuse the oil again cool to room temperature, strain using a very fine sieve lined with paper towels. Taste to make sure that the oil isn’t flavoured too much from the deep frying. Then you can use it again (about 4-5 times) for shallow frying and deep frying, when the oil becomes cloudy discard.

Visit the other Daring Cooks and droll at their tempura:

The Energetic Chef
Salted Lemon
Mary Mary Culinary
Veggie Test Kitchen

– posted by Donna

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