vendredi 6 novembre 2009


It’s time to take a little break from the European scene and talk a little about my favorite Japanese dish, 天ぷら, or tempura. Tempura is a plate of lightly battered and fried vegetables and seafood, commonly served over steamed rice, soba noodles, or in udon soup.

It’s said that tempura was introduced to the Japanese by the Portuguese in the 16th century. At that time Portuguese missionaries referred to the period of Lent and other holy days with the Latin word temporo, which means “time” or “time period”, these days being a period when they avoided the consumption of meat and instead ate fish and vegetables. Hence the modern word tempura.

Let’s talk ingredients. A wide variety of vegetables and seafood are commonly used in Japan.

Vegetables: green pepper, eggplant, carrot, sweet potato, potato, mushrooms, asparagus, okra, white onion, pumpkin (the Japanese kabocha variety is best), green beans, lotus root (renkon), shiso leaf. The lotus root and shiso leaves make for especially beautiful and delicate morsels, but they might be hard to find outside of Japan. My personal favorites are kabocha and green pepper. Unfortunately our western pumpkins don’t seem to have quite the flavor and texture. You can of course use other vegetables, but I recommend against using broccoli, because it will absorb the oil.

Seafood: Prawns or shrimp, scallops, squid, white-meat fish

Don’t overdo it. Choose only 5 or 6 different items for your meal.

Let’s talk sauce. The sauce typically eaten with tempura in Japan is tentsuyu sauce (three parts dashi, one part mirin, and one part shoyu) with grated daikon. I’m going to assume that you don’t live in Japan and don’t have these things in your pantry, so let’s make a similar salty/tangy dipping sauce using soy sauce, lemon juice, and grated radishes.

To eat tempura, serve the freshly-fried pieces alongside hot steamed rice. Have a small bowl of sauce for each person, and dip each piece in the sauce before eating. DO NOT pour the sauce all over your plate of tempura and rice, unless you like drinking soy sauce. Japanese cuisine is all about light flavors and textures. Dip your tempura, don’t drown it! There is an alternative (or addition) to the dipping sauce. Sprinkle your tempura with sea salt, or salt mixed with seasoning. I prefer salt mixed with curry powder, or salt and sesame seeds. You can also cut the salt with powerded green tea.

Recipe for Tempura

Assortment of vegetables and/or seafood (see above note)
Cold water and ice
Frying oil such as vegetable oil
Steamed rice

For the sauce:
Radishes, grated
Soy sauce
Juice of one lemon

First, you must cut the vegetables into pieces suitable for frying. This means large slices with a lot of surface area. If you fry small pieces you will end up with a lot of fried batter and not much inside. A medium-size green pepper, for example, will yield 4 quarters. Use whole prawns, green beans and whole or halved mushrooms. Cut carrots on a sharp slant to yield larger slices. Cut slices of pumpkin so they curve. To prevent oil splatter, poke a few holes in water-retaining seafood and hard-skinned vegetables such as squid and bell peppers. I learned this the last time I cooked tempura when I almost lost an eye to popping oil.

Mix the flour with cold water. Some stores sell ‘tempura flour’ but you can just use regular flour. The water must be cold to ensure crispiness after frying. To keep it cold, put in a couple ice cubes. Do not mix the batter thoroughly. Lumps are desired to give the tempura its unique texture.

Heat oil an inch deep in a pan to 160-180 degrees Celsius. I don’t have a thermometer so I know the oil’s ready when a drop of batter sizzles and floats.

Coat the pieces with batter and set in the pan. They should sizzle immediately and float. When they are golden take them out and dispose on a platter covered with paper towels. As you fry, remove the little pieces of batter that rest in the oil, otherwise they will burn and taint the flavor of the oil. Use two different pairs of chopsticks to mix the batter and to fry.

Tempura is best served immediately, so if you’re cooking for many people it’s better to take a fry-as-you-go approach rather than prepare a large batch at one time.

To make the sauce, combine all ingredients to taste, using a good amount of radish. If the sauce is too salty, thin with water.

And enjoy! Itadakimasu!

Aucun commentaire:

Enregistrer un commentaire