The basics of tempura

Table-side frying in your fondue pot

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The next time you throw a dinner party, serve an amazing made-to-order appetizer for your guests. Learn how to make this classic Japanese fry batter to cook seafood, vegetables and even poultry right at the table in your fondue pot.

A Japanese classic, tempura consists of foods that are battered and deep fried. Using your fondue pot, you can make a delicious appetizer or finger food that's cooked and served right at the table.

Fondue pot tempura-battered appetizer recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/3 cups very cold water or ice water
  • Peanut oil
  • Your choice of bite-sized chunks of vegetables, seafood, tofu, chicken, etc.

Directions:

  1. Mix the beaten eggs and water.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients and mix them into the egg and water mixture. Don't over-stir — the mixture should be slightly lumpy.
  3. Heat the peanut oil in the fondue pot to 350 degrees F.
  4. Stab a chunk of veggie or protien on a fondue skewer and dip it in the tempura batter, ensuring it's well-coated, but not dripping.
  5. Dip the battered food into the preheated fondue pot and cook until golden brown and the food is cooked. The length of time will vary, depending on what's being cooked. Shrimp should be cooked until pink (2 or 3 minutes), while chicken and vegetables could take longer, depending on how big your chunks are (up to 4 or 5 mintues).

More tempura tips

Tempura cooking is actually very easy, especially in a fondue pot. But here are some additional tips to make your tempura fondue party a total success.
  1. Tempura is limited only by your imagination. Traditional foods include a variety of vegetables and seafood, such as shrimp or scallops, but don't be afraid to experiment with western staples like chicken or even cubes of beef.
  2. The fried food can then be dipped in a traditional Japanese dipping sauce or just dipped in salt. In Japan you'll often be served salt that's mixed with various seasonings.
  3. It's very important to make your batter just before frying, so make sure the oil is hot first. Always sift your flour first and use ice-cold water. Stir only enough to mix the batter. If you over-beat the batter, you'll develop the gluten in the flour and it won't work properly. Tempura batter should be lumpy.
  4. Test to make sure the oil is hot enough before frying your foods. To do this, drop a small bit of batter into the oil. If the drop quickly floats to the surface, the oil is hot enough. If it takes its time in floating, let the oil heat longer.
  5. Cut food for frying into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Experiment with cutting shapes in your foods before frying. In Japan, for example, they cut fancy little stars into the mushrooms caps.
  7. Cutting small slits along the under-curve of a peeled shrimp will keep the shrimp from curling while it cooks.

Below are some of our favorite foods for tempura. Feel free to use your imagination and add your own.

  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Calamari
  • Chicken breast cubes
  • Steak cubes
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Japanese eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Squash

More Japanese recipes

Asparagus tempura
Japanese meatballs
Japanese pancakes

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.

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