Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tempura: tasty fried things

So, I know I promised this over the weekend, but Saturday was too nice to stay indoors so I worked on getting my garden ready for full planting, did some misc. outside housework, and went for a good long bike ride. Sunday I was unfortunately in my lab all day and didn't have the desire to write a blog post afterwards. I don't even want to get into the past two days.... But this is a sort of double recipe post to make up for all that!

Anywho, two weeks ago, while everyone was busy planning for an upcoming conference that the bulk of the lab went to, we all accidentally forgot one of my lab-mates' birthday. After finding that out, we organized an impromptu trip to his favorite Korean restaurant (he's Korean, so you know it was authentic and good). I ordered the tempura lunch box (essentially a bento box) as something different from my usual. Since then I've been wanting more, but haven't had the time or money to go to lunch and order it. Time to dig out the dutch oven and frying oil!

Tempura is simply a method of lightly frying pretty much anything. Its not dense like many fried foods in America, and it often consists only of vegetables and shrimp. Its light, puffy, and you don't feel loaded down after eating a couple of pieces. The key to all of that is the batter. Tempura batter is made quickly using a low gluten flour (sorry, no whole wheat tempura) and kept cold. This lack of gluten causes the batter to puff when fried, not become chewy and dense. Served with traditional dipping sauce (you can find it bottled in your local asian market) and its near heaven (if you're on a tempura bender like I was last week).

Tempura shrimp and vegetables:
1.5 cups flour (preferably pastry, but AP will do)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup ice water
3-4 ice cubes
1 egg
stuff to fry (see tips below)
2 quarts oil for frying
  1. Divide the flour, adding 1/2 cup to a shallow bowl (for coating the pieces before dipping) and the rest to a mixing bowl. Add the salt to the coating flour and mix with a fork to combine. Add the baking powder to the mixing bowl and mix. Start heating the oil to 375F in a dutch oven or fryer.
  2. Coat the food pieces to be fried lightly with the coating mixture and set on some paper towels. This and the salt will remove some of the moisture from the pieces which will help them fry better.
  3. After everything is coated, quickly wisk the egg with the ice water and add that and the ice cubes to the mixing bowl. Mix for only a few seconds. Your batter should be lumpy as in the picture below.
  4. When the oil is at the right temp. dip the pieces, shake off some excess batter and carefully add to the fryer. Like most fry jobs, they'll sink first and float to the top as they cook. Depending on the size of the piece and what it was (raw seafood vs. vegetable) you'll need to time it accordingly, just remember that if the sizzling stops, then you've gone too far and oil is going in instead of water(steam) coming out. Remove finished pieces to a cooling rack laying on top of paper towels and then serve asap or keep warm in a 100F (toaster)oven.

Shrimp will tend to curl when cooked, so skewer them before dipping in the batter. Save anything raw like the shrimp for frying last as well so you don't have any cross contamination issues. Slice your veggies thinly (or fruits, you can do bananas from what I've read) so they cook quickly and don't get mushy. Your batter may separate a little, just give it one or two quick stirs to pull back together. Use a fine meshed strainer to remove all of the little bits of batter that come off so they don't burn and cause nasty flavors. After your fry session, pour the oil back into the original container through a coffee filter to remove any small bits you don't want staying around. The oil should be good for 3-4 more uses, just don't try using it in cakes.

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What I used, lotus root, zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, and shrimp.

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See how the batter is lumpy, thats what you want. Keep it cold!

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Tempura eggplant and zucchini, notice how the batter is thin and puffy?

So, restaurant tempura will probably always trump my own, simply because it's a bit of a hassle (deep frying is always a chore at home). But for those times when I really feel like I can't live without tempura for dinner, I have my own method that works pretty darn well. I'm also excited because I've got a recipe in mind for using up the extra lotus root and eggplant that I didn't use, so look forward to that assuming all goes well.

Ok, so I promised a second recipe, and here it is... although I'll admit it's barely a recipe.

Rasberry Acai sorbet:
2 33 oz. bottles Tropicana Pure rasberry acai juice
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
  1. Add the sugar and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then cut the heat and cool. You've just made standard simple syrup!
  2. Combine the simple syrup and juice in your ice cream maker and let it go.
  3. Enjoy the awesome deliciousness that you've just created, or pack it into a container and freeze to harden.

Told you it was barely a recipe. But I got two bottles of the juice on managers special for a grand total of $5, the sugar probably cost me 50 cents, and I came out in the end with a half gallon of sorbet that if you bought pre-made would cost a lot more and have a lot more "stuff" in it. So those of you who don't have an ice cream maker yet.. GET ONE! Because I've got a bunch more ice cream recipes in the pipeline and you'll only feel sad if you can't make them yourself.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Bring on the ice cream recipes! :)