The word tempura comes from a Portuguese term for embers but the style of cooking is very much Japanese who took the idea of this particular batter. Tempura has been practised since the mid-1500s. The Japanese have it on the menu for a catch-all coating. It is famed for its crunch.
All sorts of foods are battered including seafood such as squid, prawns, pieces of fish etc. The other food popularised by this method of cooking is to coat strips of vegetables as finger food or for dipping in various sauces.
Squid is popular because it is a tricky food to cook at that best of times but lends itself very well to very rapid frying. It cooks fast in a fryer. Squid you either have to cook very quickly, or slow and low. Anything in between and it’s chewy and rubbery.
So the quick frying in tempura batter is ideal for squid. Of course if you would rather use other seafood, you can use this batter with shrimp, pieces of lobster, oysters, clams, small fish, or pieces of larger fish.
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Ingredients For Tempura Batter:
- 200g self-raising flour OR 140g cornflower with 60g of plain flour
- 1.5g salt
- 50g cornflower
- 400ml/13 fluid oz. cold still or carbonated/sparkling water
- neutral oil such as groundnut oil for deep frying
- crushed ice is also useful to hand.
Vegetables such as asparagus, carrots, spring onions, leeks all cut and sliced into thin strips.
Seafood such as squid rings especially.
- The batter is prepared by placing the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the really cold water and ice if available, and mix to generate the batter until it has the consistency of cream.
- Leave the batter in the fridge for about 15 minutes so that the flour fully absorbs the water. The consistency of the batter is adjusted with either adding extra water or flour.
- Have a heat fryer set to a temperature of 200ºC or just fill a saucepan a quarter full with the neutral oil to the same temperature.
- With a fork, stab a vegetable or squid ring so that it is firmly on the tines of the fork. Use fondue forks as well.
- Take the food and dunk in the very hot oil to fry. The alternative is to take small portions of the food and add to the oil. Leave to crisp up for a few minutes.
- Remove and dry on a paper towel. It may be too hot to eat at that moment so let the battered food cool a little.
- The batter must be used as soon as it’s made otherwise it will become too dough-like and fry like a jelly!
To get a decent crispy batter, make sure the oil is as hot as possible. Frying oil is often useless after a number of runs with it as any fish and chip shop will tell you. The flour and water mix can also end up as a dough if the proportions of flour to water are not right and it must be used immediately it is made. It will not keep.