Who can resist delicious crispy homemade vegetable tempura? When making tempura at home, the goal is a crispy yet airy coating that doesn’t absorb oil when deep fried. I’ll teach you how to achieve excellent results in this recipe.
Alongside sushi and ramen, tempura is another mandatory menu item for Japanese restaurants. Encased in a crunchy, crispy yet light batter, these perfectly deep fried seafood and vegetable are seriously addicting.
After sharing my Shrimp Tempura recipe, I am excited to share today’s recipe on Vegetable Tempura since many of you have requested for it. Dipped in batter and deep fried, each vegetable gets cooked perfectly on the inside, while the natural sweetness and flavor is enhanced. You would enjoy them piping hot with a delicate dipping sauce with grated daikon.
Some of the common vegetables used for Tempura include Japanese sweet potatoes, mushrooms (shiitake or king oyster are delicious), Kabocha squash, bell peppers, lotus roots and eggplant. When I make vegetable tempura at home, I also like to include shiso leaves as well.
The Key for Perfect Vegetable Tempura
Before I start talking abut how to make Tempura, please understand that even for the Japanese, making perfect Tempura is not easy. It requires a lot of skills and practice so don’t be discouraged if your first tempura does not look like ones from restaurants. But how do you get that crispy texture without the food being too oily?
The key for perfect tempura is batter and the temperature of oil. I created a few steps below to go over the tips for making tempura.
Tips on Making Perfect Vegetable Tempura
Most of Tempura chefs recommend that flour to water ratio should be 1:1. Some recipe requires an egg (or two depending on the amount of flour and water), and some don’t. It’s up to you. When the batter is too thin, the ingredients won’t have much of batter around it and there is no fluffy and crisp texture to it. When the batter is too thick, you feel like you are eating the chewy exterior.
Please remember few tips about batter. Always mix the batter using chopsticks for only a few seconds to at most 1 minute, leaving lumps in the mixture on purpose. Overmixing the batter will result in activation of wheat gluten, which causes the flour mixture to become chewy and dough-like when fried.
Cold batter is absolutely necessary for the unique fluffy and crisp tempura. All the ingredients (water, egg, and flour) must be cold prior to making batter, and batter has to be made RIGHT BEFORE you deep fry and has to be kept cold at all times to avoid activation of wheat gluten.
What Oil to Use for Tempura
The Tempura specialty restaurant uses a special blend of oil that is a combination of many kinds of oil. Each restaurant has their own secret recipe and blend that they perfected over years. At home, you can simply enhance the flavor by adding sesame oil into the vegetable oil.
The temperature has to be between 320-356°F (160°C – 180°C) depending on how long it takes to cook through the ingredients. If it takes a long time to cook, then deep fry at lower temperature because high temperature will cook the batter too fast and inside won’t be cooked thoroughly. And remember, cold battered ingredients will lower the oil temperature quickly; therefore, if you need to deep fry vegetables at 338°F (170°C), you need to bring the oil to 356-365°F (180-185°C) first.
How to Deep Fry Tempura
If you ask me what’s the most difficult part of making Tempura, I’d say it’s to keep the right temperature at all times while deep frying. It cannot be too high or too low. Most of the time I do not require thermometer, but if you are not used to deep frying, I highly recommend you to get a thermometer to precisely know at what temperature you are deep frying. The right sound of tempura being deep fried is like a light sound. Like cider just being opened. That kind of light bubbly sound.
In order to maintain the correct temperature, do not over crowd with ingredients when deep frying. As a guidance remember just half of oil surface should be covered with ingredients. When you put too many ingredients in at once, the oil temperature will drop too quickly.
What if the oil gets too hot? The quick solution to this is to add a bit of extra oil or add more cold battered ingredients. Like I said, it is all about temperature control when deep frying.
Lastly, please pick up crumbs in the oil between batches. The burnt crumb will attach to your new tempura if you don’t pick them up, and oil will get darker once the crumbs become burnt and it leave a bad flavor in the oil.
Hope I didn’t overwhelm you. It’s simple process yet it requires good skills and practice to make perfect Tempura. Once you start making good quality tempura at home, yours will taste more delicious and less oily than ones from majority of Japanese restaurants. Good luck! 🙂
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- neutral flavor oil (vegetable, canola, etc) (for deep frying) (Vegetable oil : Sesame oil = 10 : 1)
- 1 large egg (cold 1 large egg = 40 ml)
- 200 ml water (iced water)
- 1 cup all purpose flour (1 cup = 240 ml = 120 g)
Gather all the ingredients.
- Combine dashi stock, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
Gather all the ingredients.
- Slice Japanese sweet potato into thin pieces and soak in water for 15-30 minutes to remove excess starch. Then dry them using paper towels.
- Cut kabocha squash and lotus root into thin slices. Soak lotus root in vinegar water (2 cups water + 1 tsp. vinegar).
- Cut King oyster mushroom into thin slices.
- Discard the head of eggplant first, then cut it in half lengthwise. Then cut the eggplant lengthwise into very thin (about 1/8 inch) slices leaving the top 1-inch part intact. Gently press down on the eggplants to fan the slices out.
Once the ingredients are ready, heat 1 1/2" (3 cm) of the oil to 356F (180C) in a deep fryer or pot. To make batter, sift the flour into a large bowl.
Gather all the ingredients.
Sift all-purpose flour.
- Add the egg into very cold water.
- Whisk vigorously and discard the form on the surface.
- As you slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour, mix the batter for about 1 minute with chopsticks in a figure 8 motion. Do not over mix and please leave some lumps in batter (See Notes 1). Keep the batter cold all the time (See Notes 2).
- Start deep frying from the root vegetables as oil temperature needs to be a bit lower than non-root vegetables. If the ingredient is wet, dry them with paper towel before dredging in the batter (See Notes 3).
- For root vegetables, deep fry at 320°F (160°C) for 3-4 minutes. For vegetables and mushrooms, at 338-356°F (170-180°C) for 1-2 minutes. Do not over crowd with ingredients. Remember you only put ingredients taking up about 1/2 of oil surface area (See Notes 4). For shiso leaves, sprinkle a bit of sifted flour on the back of leaves and dip only the back of leaf into the batter and deep fry for 15 seconds (See Notes 5).
- Transfer tempura to a wired rack or paper towel to remove excess oil.
- Between batches, Between batches, remove the crumbs which will burn and turn the oil darker if left in fryer.
- Grate daikon and squeeze water out. Serve tempura immediately with grated daikon. To enjoy, add grated daikon in tempura dipping sauce for refreshing taste.
1: Make batter right before deep frying to avoid activation of wheat gluten.
2: Add 1-2 ice cubes in the batter or put the batter bowl in a larger bowl containing ice water. Make sure to keep the batter cold all the time.
3: While tempura is being fried, moisture from the ingredients will be evaporated and tempura will become crispy. However, if the ingredients have extra moisture, the tempura will become soggy after being deep fried.
4: When you put too many ingredients, the oil temperature will drop quickly. Make sure to keep the right temperature all the time.
5: For ingredients that are hard to keep the batter on, such as Shrimp Tempura, Kakiage, or shiso, we dust extra flour before dredging the ingredient in the batter. Flour works as a glue and batter tends to stay on the ingredients.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on Jan 20, 2013.