Crunchy, warm, moist, salty – tempura has all of these features. No wonder we love tempura in America. It just occurred to me that it might be a great way to get finicky kids to try vegetables – tempura vegetables are extremely tasty, especially broccoli.
So what is tempura? In short, battered and deep fried food. Typically made with wheat flour, it can be made gluten free, such as we did in our lab class. You also need a substance to give the flour lightness. This is usually accomplished with beer, bubbly water, or baking powder. These substances create gas in the dough which creates air pockets that give the resulting batter a light feel.
To make tempura batter, just combine equal parts flour and beer/sparkling water. Also add a couple of tablespoons of a thickening powder such as arrowroot or kuzu (cornstarch could be used, but it’s often genetically modified).
Below: Non alcoholic beer was used, so we couldn’t be tempted. 🙂
You can tempura almost anything, but vegetables are terrific. You want your pieces to be cut thinly without being flimsy. You don’t want the vegetable to be overwhelmed by the batter and you don’t want it to come out undercooked because it was too large, either.
Below: The ideal range for frying oil is around 340 – 360 degrees. A candy thermometer, which can be submerged, is highly useful.
I found that tempura without adding some salt is pretty bland, but it becomes extremely delicious after being seasoned. So, be sure to salt with an unrefined sea salt such as Redmond’s or Si Salt.
Obviously, tempura is not something you want to make a meal of. It’s more of a tasting type technique that you might use to offer a little crunch and a little lightness. Mainly this is a celebration food technique that you can use sparingly. But, if you do tempura, enjoy it and savor it well. 🙂
Below: Doesn’t this look delicious?
Below: A giant mass of vegetables that all cooked as one. Tempura bear claw, perhaps?