A very ancient cooking technique, that was born when Portuguese Jesuits met Japanese cooks: we are talking about tempura, fish tempura or vegetables tempura, a frothy fry, light and crispy at the same time. Here's how to make it perfect, following some tips and rethinking the very concept of frying.
Crisp and soft like a cloud, tempura is a cooking technique typical of the Japanese culinary tradition. An apparently very simple preparation based only on water and rice flour which, if done in the right way, allows you to fry fish and vegetables in a batter light and crispy at the same time.
The word tempura derives from the Latin "tempora", a term used to indicate the days of prayer when the Jesuits did not eat meat and chose this type of cooking to flavor vegetables and fish. The secret of the lightness of the tempura is in the thermal shock and in the temperature of the oil but, as for all preparations, there are small rules and some tips to make it perfect: here are the 5 secrets to prepare a perfect batter and bring to the table a tempura just like the masters of Japanese cuisine would do.
1. Only two ingredients
The perfect tempura batter is made up of only two ingredients: rice flour (preferably sifted) and sparkling water. The Japanese masters work them with chopsticks and for a few seconds, the time that a lumpy consistency is formed: yes, you read correctly, unlike the classic batters, that of the tempura must not be smooth. The bravest ones add a pinch of baking soda, a spoonful of sugar or an egg yolk to the two basic ingredients.
2. Thermal shock
The secret of the lightness of the tempura is all in the thermal shock: the batter must be worked (a little) in a metal bowl placed in a larger bowl full of ice. A similar rule must be also applied to the vegetables or fish you want to fry: better keep them in the refrigerator until the moment before cooking. The very cold batter in contact with the boiling oil allows the food not to absorb too much oil, thus remaining light and frothy.
3. The right rest
Once the batter is ready, let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes: if you have chosen to prepare a tempura like the real Japanese masters then you will have to be Zen just like them. In the kitchen you need patience, and we certainly don't have to tell you: 30 minutes are not so many, you can use them to clean the prawns and cut the vegetables.
4. Flour it first
The batter must completely wrap the vegetables or fish that you want to fry and the secret to making this combination perfect is a nice flouring. Cut the vegetables into sticks, clean the fish and pass them in a plate full of flour (00 type will be fine), and finally immerse them in the batter and throw them in the hot oil.
5. Oil temperature
We are almost at the end, you have prepared the perfect batter, you have floured and wrapped the ingredients, now you just have to fry: be careful, the temperature must be between 170° C and 180° C, neither more nor less. Immerse the battered vegetables or fish that will have to go down to the bottom and rise again starting to sizzle: if they start frying only on the surface, it will mean that the oil is too hot and your tempura will not be at its best. Last but not least: fry a few pieces at a time, filling the pan (better if a wok) is not a good idea if you want a perfect tempura.