Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tempura Party!!

This past Saturday, my friends and I got together for a tempura party!! Now, for anyone who knows how little fried food I eat, they would find it quite odd that I actually own a deep fryer. I bought it a couple years ago when my parents came out to California for Thanksgiving so we could make our traditional fried oysters (super yum…future post?) and I haven’t used it since. Anyway, I guess it does come in handy for a super fun Tempura Party!! Tempura is the Japanese version of battered deep fried stuff, generally seafood and vegetables. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the origins of tempura, which was supposedly brought to Japan in the 16th century by the Portuguese.

It is actually quite easy to make and a lot of fun to do together with a bunch of your friends. Standard things to tempura include shrimp and various vegetables such as sweet potato, green pepper, eggplant, green beans, carrots, and onions. These are all super yummy, but the best part of making your own is being creative. One fun thing to do is to have all the guests bring various things to tempura ranging from the more standard stuff to things that wouldn’t typically be on a menu at a restaurant. Some of the things we tried turned out really good, while others weren’t quite what we hoped; of course that's part of the fun with experimenting. Some of the more standard things we did were shrimp, calamari, tiny scallops, onion rings, peppers, and sweet potato (soak potato in water for about an hour prior to frying). Here is a summery of some of the more interesting things:

  • Salmon sushi roll – good, the salmon inside became cooked while frying
  • Mozzarella pieces – yum, a nice twist on mozzarella sticks, be careful though since might melt
  • Blackberries – surprisingly very good, tasted like little fried blackberry cobblers
  • Banana – okay, some of my friends really liked it but, but I found it just gooey and not that flavorful
  • Chocolate truffles – didn’t really hold up well in the oil, although the melted chocolate became a perfect dip for the banana and blackberries, yum!
  • Green tea ice cream mochi (from Trader Joe’s) – okay…we were all so full by the time these came out. The mochi part helped it hold up in the oil
  • And my favorite…Oreo cookies (well, actually Joe’s O’s for those who shop at Trader Joe’s) – Absolutely amazing, the cookie part got really soft and chewy and the creamy filling became really gooey – super yum!!
I adapted the batter from a Japanese cook book I got from the bargin section at Borders (it was only $3.99!) The batter is just a simple mixture of ice cold water, egg, and flour with a splash of sake. Some recipes I saw online used soda water, which would be interesting to try. The batter must be kept cold, so a couple of ice cubes are added to the batter to keep it from getting warm while frying everything. Also be sure to dust the item to tempura in flour before dipping it in the batter. If you want a lot of batter (like for the ice cream) it helps to dip it in the batter, then roll in flour and then dip in the batter a second time. The batter should be made right before you plan to fry and keep enough extra of the ingredients handy to make more batter as the night goes on. I think I ended up making 3 batches!

Recipe – Tempura

1 cup ice cold water
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup flour, sifted
Splash of sake (about 1 ½ tsp maybe…)
Ice cubes
Extra flour for frying
Tempura dipping sauce

Mix together the water and beaten egg. Gently stir in the flour using chopsticks, batter should be thin and lumpy. Mix in the splash of sake. Add the ice cubes to keep batter cold while dipping and frying. Heat oil in a deep fryer (you could probably also use a pot instead) to about 350 degrees F. Dust the item for frrying with flour, dip into batter and then drop into deep fryer. Cook a couple minutes until coating is a light golden brown. Let cool a few minutes and enjoy with the dipping sauce!


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