Vegetable Tempura

Of all deep-fried foods, I prefer Japanese tempura. The delicate coating of batter allows the fresh vegetable flavours to come through; there is crispness without the heaviness generally associated with batter-fried foods. The secret of tempura’s lace-like quality lies in the use of a thin batter made with very cold or iced water and not mixed together until the very last moment. Although tempura is commonly used with seafood such as prawns, it works as deliciously with vegetables. Cooking the tempura, by dipping the prepared vegetables in the batter and deep-frying them quickly, takes a bit of practice. The tempura must be served immediately. For an authentic Japanese taste, dashi would be used in preference to the stock in the dipping sauce.

Ingredients

  • 100 g (4 oz) cauliflower
  • 100 g (4 oz) courgettes
  • 100 g (4 oz) carrots
  • 100 g (4 oz) aubergines
  • 50 g (2 oz) Chinese long beans, runner beans or French beans, trimmed
  • 1 small onion
  • 100 g (4 oz) small whole button mushrooms
  • 600 ml (1 pint) oil, preferably groundnut, for deep-frying

Sauce

  • 50 ml (2 fl oz) vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons sake, rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Batter

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) very cold water
  • 100 g (4 oz) plain flour, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Method

Cut the cauliflower into small florets about 3.5 cm ( in) wide. Cut the courgettes, carrots and aubergines into thin 10 cm (4 in) long slices. Cut the beans into 10 cm (4 in) lengths. Thinly slice the onion.

In a small pan, simmer the sauce ingredients together for 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, leave to cool, then pour the sauce into a small serving bowl and set aside.

Combine the batter ingredients together in a bowl and quickly strain through a fine sieve. (Do this just before you are about to deep-fry, while the oil is heating.)

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or large wok until hot. Dip the vegetables in the batter and fry until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. You will have to do this in several batches. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.