Ever since I’m back from my trip in Japan, I have been constantly craving all the foods that we were eating there. The foods were fantastic, it’s pretty rare to find bad food in Japan simply because all the chefs there really take their cooking seriously, not only in fine-dining restaurants but street food or fast food joints as well.
One of the most memorable dishes for me was this kakiage mixed vegetable tempura. I still quite remember that last day in Tokyo when Raymond (my partner) and I were waiting for our boarding time and we haven’t had lunch yet. We still had around 20 minutes idle time which we decided to check out the food court in the airport for some quick meals.
Raymond pointed at the tempura shops that displayed all the fried tempuras for people to choose with their rice or noodle dish. So we tried that out and were really surprised with the quality of the tempura, especially the crispy kakiage mixed vegetables tempura shown below. Even though it was sold in the airport’s food court (normally airport food is pretty mediocre), the tempuras were done nicely – crunchy and light.We felt really happy leaving Japan with a great last meal.
Back in Australia, I became interested in cooking more Japanese food myself so I began cooking more of them. I’ve tried many different kakiage mixed vegetable tempuras in Japanese restaurants around Melbourne and also tried cooking them at home. I now know how to differentiate which ones are not quite good enough and which ones deserve an applause.
If you haven’t known already, the difference between good and bad tempura lies on the batter itself. We don’t want to have a soggy oily tempura that is yucky and leave you a greasy taste in the mouth. We want the tempura that is light and crispy, has a good crunchy sound on the first bite and keeps us wanting for more!
There are some tips that I would like to share with you to achieve that light and crispy kakiage mixed vegetable tempura. All of these are compiled by me from other websites when I did my first research on how to create the perfect kakiage tempura. Go to these websites for more details (Justhungry.com, Epicurious.com, Food52.com, Saveur.com, FineCooking.com).
1. Mix the tempura batter by using a spoon or a chopstick. Do not use a whisk or try to break out all the flour lumps and over mix. This is because over-mixing the batter can make it heavy.
2. Always use icy-cold water for the tempura batter. To achieve that light-coating the batter needs to be very cold before it goes to the hot oil. Batter will stick together much better and it will absorb less oil.
3. Make sure your oil is hot before you drop your first batter. I normally test the heat by dropping just a bit of the batter to see the reaction of the oil. If the batter floats to the surface with a subtle frying sound that means it’s ready. If it doesn’t give you any reaction you need to wait a bit longer.
4. Cut vegetables into similar size as to achieve the similar texture when done.
5. If you want a tempura that gives a nice crunch, refrain from making large size tempuras so that the deep-frying oil can cook the inside easier.
6. Make sure you drain all your excess oil after frying the tempuras. Again, you don’t want to have oily tempuras.
7. It’s not recommended to make tempura ahead but if you have to do so or if you have left-over tempura, you can heat it again by dipping it in the hot oil for just 30 seconds to make it crispy again, or you can also use an oven.
You can have kakiage mixed vegetable tempura with rice and tempura sauce (this is my partner’s favourite way of enjoying tempura), or you can serve it with udon as shown above. You can totally eat it by itself as a snack. When I made this I’ve already eaten three tempuras by myself! They are so good!
If you ask me if tempura is healthy or not, it’s most probably not quite healthy but it’s not really unhealthy either. Even though the main ingredients are vegetables, the deep-frying process kinds of takes the healthiness away. However, tempura is considered pretty good compared to other deep-fried food because the batter is lighter and does not absorb the oil very much.
Note: I’ve adapted the tempura recipe below from JapaneseCooking101.com.
- 1/4 head of cabbage, sliced thinly
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienne
- 1 onion, sliced thinly
- 1 handful of green beans, sliced thinly
- 1 handful of chopped spring onions
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- Vegetable oil or canola oil for deep-frying
- Tempura Batter:
- 1 1/4 cup of tempura flour (1 cup of flour + 1/4 cup of potato starch or corn starch)
- 1 cup of ice water
- Prepare the vegetables and mix them in one big bowl. Add flour and salt, mix until all vegetables are coated thinly with flour to help the batter sticks.
- In a separate bowl, prepare the tempura batter by combining the tempura flour and ice water. Mix lightly but do not over mix. Pour batter into the mix vegetables and toss to combine.
- Heat up your deep-frying oil to 175 C or 350 F. Using 1 big spoon and 1 chopstick, take one spoonful of vegetable batter and use the chopstick to shape it into a round bird’s nest. Drop it gently into the heated oil. Repeat the process for 2-4 more pieces without overcrowding the oil. Fry for 3 minutes or until golden and crispy while flipping once gently with your chopstick.
- Remove from the oil and put on a wire rack or paper towel to drain the excess oil.