Tempura is a popular street style food, eaten in Japan as a light snack or lunch - and easy to eat on the go! Everyone associates Tempura as a Japanese dish, and it is a specialty from Tokyo. The interesting thing however, is that this method o cooking actually came to Japan from Portuguese sailors who were the first Europeans to set foot in Japan. Annabelle Jackson, a food anthropologist , points out "The word ‘to cook’ in Portuguese, it’s ‘tempera’, and ‘cookery’ in Portuguese is ‘temporo’,” she explains. “And then we have a third word, ‘temporas’, which is very much associated with the ‘fish on Friday’ idea, or even a vegetarian concept. So this suggests to me very strongly that tempura is coming from these words.
Wherever it is from, it is fun and easy to make at home. A basic Jaopanese Tempura is simply made from flour, egg and ice-water. We've made two very Australian changes to the base recipe by incorporating a little beer and mounain pepper - maybe we should call it Tempuraus!
Will make 2 cups of Tempura batter or enough for 6 servings ( can be gluten free if using Rice Flour)
For Step One
1 large egg
1/2 cup (125 ml) of your favourite light beer (optional- if you don't want to use beer then use a cup of iced water)
1/2 cup (125 ml) ice water
a pinch of Mountain Pepper
For Step Two
1 cup of well sifted plain flour or rice flour or a combination of each (approx 160g). and a little extra for coating
Canola Oil for deep frying
18 large . cleaned prawns
Jar of Mango and Rivermint Relish
Make the Batter first
In a medium sized bowl whisk together the egg , beer, iced water and Mountain Pepper.
It's important to sieve the flour well - we usually sift it twice to remove asny small clumps and to aerate the flour for the batter. Once sieved, whisk the flour into the egg mix until it makes a smooth batter. It is important not to overmix so go lightly. Once the flour is incorporated into the egg mix, stop whisking and set aside. Japanese cooks use chopsticks to whisk as this is supposed to give a better result than a whisk, however we haven't tried this - must try that next time!
Heat the oil to hot to ensure a crispy batter and no gluggy batter lurking under the surface. You can tell the oil is hot when you test a very small amount of batter and it sizzles immediately it hits the oil.
While waiting for the oil to reach the required heat, toss the prawns in a small amount of sifted flour so they are lightly dusted
Holding the tail of the prawn in your hand (or use chopticks) coat the prawns in the batter and lower the prawn into the oil, ensuring that you don't burn yourself as the prawn is placed in the oil - best not to drop the prawn but gently lower it into the batter. Be careful not to use too much batter on each prawn as it will end up crispy on the outside but muchy on the inside. Be like Goldilocks and use just the right amount!
Fry the prawns until the batter becomes a light gold colour and the prawns inside are the usual pink. Serve immediately with a small bowl of Mango and Rivermint relish for each person.
TIP: in a standard sized frying pan, do not try to cook all the prawns at once. Cook only the amount of prawns that fit easily into the pan with room between them. If you try to overload the pan (tempting as it is to get them, on the table) you will end up lowering the temperature of the oil and end uop with gluggy prawns and that will never do~