I know what you are thinking… fried foods do not belong on a dietitian’s food blog. However I think it is okay to venture out once in a while and cook an authentic dish even if it swims in oil. The key world is “moderation”.
When I lived in Guam, I used to cook a lot of Japanese food. Then I stopped and forgot about it. After visiting our Japanese friend in California, I was reminded how much I enjoy the Japanese flavors. I dusted off all my cookbooks and old notes, made a trip to the Asian store and went back to the kitchen.
To add to it, Gabriella’s class has been studying Japan over the past few weeks. As a dietitian I offered to come in on a monthly basis to teach the kids various nutrition topics. Since they were learning about Japan my next assignment was Japanese food. For the class I decided to make a vegetable tempura. I also cooked some edamame (soy beans) and shared a few boxes of toasted seaweed with the kids. I also promised to make them several types of vegetable makki rolls for our next meeting. They requested avocado and cucumber sushi, so I have to practice my sushi making technique.
The class was very successful. Most of the kids liked the tempura and definitely enjoyed the soybean and seaweed. One of the boys came to me and told me that he really, really loved asparagus tempura. It was his first time that he had tried that veggie and he said it was the best! He asked for the recipe, so here you are:-)
To make tempura you can use variety of ingredients. I went with vegetables and herb such as sweet potatoes, asparagus, green beans, mushrooms. I also used nasturtium flowers, Thai basil, parsley and tarragon because that’s what I had in my garden. The trick to a light, crispy tempura, is not to over mix the batter which will cause gluten development and it will make the dough heavy. Be sure to select oil that has a high smoke point, so it will not burn and cause development of toxic particles. I used a mixture of canola and coconut oil. It is best is to use a thermometer and heat the oil to 325 to 330 F. If the temperature is too high it will burn, and if it’s too low the batter will absorb oil and will be soggy.
For dipping sauce, you can use store bought tempura sauce -Hon Tsuyu, which is used as a soup and sauce based for udon, tempura or vegetable soups. Or you can make your own.
- Dipping sauce:
- ½ cup of dashi
- ¼ cup of light soy sauce
- ¼ cup of mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
- 1-2 teaspoons of grated ginger
- ¼ cup of grated daikon radish
- Oil, for frying
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, sliced ¼ inches thick
- 6-8 mushrooms, cut in half if large
- 8-10 asparagus, trimmed
- 10 green beans, trimmed
- Variety of herbs (I used tarragon, basil, parsley mint)
- (You can use also carrots, broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper, sugar snap etc)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of cold water
- ¾ cup of regular flour
- ¼ corn starch
- ¼ t baking powder
- pinch of salt
- To Make Dipping Sauce:
- In small saucepan over moderate heat, stir together all ingredients. Bring to simmer, then remove from heat and keep warm. The sauce can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for a few days. Warm it up before serving.
To Make Tempura:
- Place one egg in a medium bowl.
- Add 1 cup of ice water to the egg. (That will decrease the process of gluten development in the batter).
- Mix flours, salt and baking powder. Add to the liquid and very quickly and gently mix to combine; however some dry flour should be visible in the liquid. The mixture should have the consistency of a heavy cream.
- Heat 4 inches of oil in a large sauce pan over moderate heat until thermometer registers 325F- 330F.
- Drop the vegetables one by one into the batter and then into the oil being careful not to overcrowd. To maintain consistent oil temperature, cook them in small batches, about two and a half minutes for most, and two minutes for bell peppers, asparagus, and leafy ingredients such basil and parsley. Serve the tempura immediately, with a dipping sauce or seasoned salt and pepper.