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Tempura is a traditional Japanese way of cooking and serving food. Various titbits of meat, fish and vegetables are dipped in a very light batter and deep-fried.

In Japan, and now in other countries, many restaurants are devoted exclusively to the cooking and serving of tempura. A chef works inside a horseshoe-shaped bar and about 16 customers sit around the outside waiting to be served.

Tempura makes a superb party meal at home and to cook the pieces of food a fondue set is ideal, as the guests can help themselves to the selection of food and cook it themselves.

Serve Tempura with salt and a dashi or soy-based sauce placed in individual bowls in which the food may be dipped.

The oil used is important; Japanese chefs have their own favourite blend, chosen from cotton seed oil, olive oil, sesame seed oil and ground nut oil. In this recipe use 80% groundnut oil and 20% sesame oil.

The foods for tempura should be chosen for their contrast in colour, flavour and texture. Although the recipe gives specific quantities for the ingredients and batter for 6 servings, any of the following foods may be used: eel, red snapper, plaice, flounder, prawns, scallops, mussels, squid, cod, mangetout, green pepper, okra, mush-rooms, aubergine , szueet potato, carrot, beans, lotus root, onion, chrysanthemum leaves, bamboo shoot, cauliflower and spinach. Anything from

6 TO 14 ingredients may be served at one meal.

12 fresh prawns, with the heads discarded 4 plaice fillets, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces 1 medium-sized squid, cleaned thoroughly and cut into 1-inch pieces 8 oz. cod, filleted, skinned and cut into 1-inch pieces 1 large green pepper, white pith removed, seeded, and cut into 1- inch pieces. 12 small button mushrooms, wiped clean 1 canned bamboo shoot, drained, and cut into -J-inch pieces 12 flowerets of cauliflower sufficient oil for deep-frying made from the blend of ground nut and sesame seed

1 egg plus

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

6 fl. oz. water

4 oz. flour

Place the prawns on a board and, using a sharp knife, slit them lengthways leaving rjie tail intact. Remove and discard the shells and open out the flesh so that the prawns lay flat. Place the prawns on a small plate. Arrange the plaice , squid, cod, pepper, mushrooms, bamboo shoot and cauliflower on individual small plates and set aside.

To make the batter, in a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and, using a kitchen fork, beat them together to form a smooth batter.

Meanwhile fill a large, heavy-based saucepan one-third full with the oil and heat it over moderately high heat until the temperature reaches 360°F on a deep-fat thermometer or a small cube of stale bread dropped into the oil browns in 50 seconds. Transfer the oil to a fondue pan set over a burner.

Using Japanese chopsticks or a long-handled, two-pronged fork spear a piece of food, dip it in the batter, allow the excess to drain off and place the food in the oil. Cook for 2 minutes or until the batter is puffed up and golden brown. Remove the food from the oil, and serve immediately. Do not cook more than 3 or 4 pieces of food at a time.

Continue draining and cooking until all the food is used up.

Tempura may be served as part of a traditional Japanese meal.

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