How to Prepare Tempura Vegetables

Tempura vegetables is a wonderful method of preparing tasty and crispy food using a Japanese method that they successfully adopted from Portuguese sailors. Ideal for vegetarians and vegans, the vegetables are presented with fattiness or greasiness, they have a crisp succulent texture that never fails to delight the tastebuds.

The key steps are preparing the tempura batter and selecting a host of root and leafy vegetables to fry with. The key as with all battered foods is making sure the just-fried vegetables have been drained thoroughly so have plenty of kitchen towel available.

We choose a selection of vegetables and here are the main ones.

sliced aubergines (eggplant),  broccoli, calabrese pieces and broccolini,  sweet potato slices,  mushroom caps, porcini and chestnut mushrooms or other mushrooms, shiitake (naturally), okra, asparagus, carrots, zucchini (courgette) slices- winter squash or pumpkin. Essentially whatever takes your fancy.

You need a thermometer to monitor the frying oil because making sure the oil is really hot is critical to success. Practice your batter technique as it makes all the difference to the enjoyment of your crispy veg.

The recipe is based on a version which you can find in Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura and more from the streets and kitchens of Tokyo and beyond. by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat

If you are keen on more tempura check out our more extensive notes on the technique and if you love seafood, why not try Tempura Squid – beautiful!


The Batter:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/4 cup ice cubes
  • 2 cups plain or cake flour

The Tempura:

  • 2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil, for frying
  • 1 pound assorted vegetables, cleaned, trimmed as needed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Vegetarian dashi, for dipping or a dipping sauce – we always try garlic, ginger and chilli in soy sauce – yum!
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
  • 8 ounces daikon radish, peeled, coarsely grated. Make sure to squeeze to remove excess liquid.


For the batter:

  1. Crack the eggs and collect the yolks in a medium sized mixing bowl. Beat lightly together.
  2. Add the water in small amounts and keep mixing thoroughly then the water. Beat all this together until a think creamy consistency is obtained. Add the ice-cubes to cool the whole batter mixture down. Keep in the fridge if things are not ready by the ‘cooking station’.
  3. The bowl can be placed inside another with ice-cold water.

For the tempura:

  1. Prepare a cooking station next to your gas stove.
  2. Slice all the vegetables to a suitable bite-size. Slices on an angle are easy to cook than large chunks but be prepared to experiment.
  3. Have ready the vegetables next to your plate with enough flour to coat them.
  4. Set a cooling rack over a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, and line up your tools: chopsticks, a metal strainer and a confectioner’s (candy) thermometer or instant-read thermometer.
  5. Pour the vegetable oil with sesame oil into a large, deep cast-iron skillet, wok or Dutch oven set over high heat. Bring the oil mixture to 360ºF. Make slightly lower than the standard 375ºF for frying, because tempura cooks so quickly. Do not overfill otherwise the temperature drops too much. Keep checking the temperature with the thermometer. 
  6. When the cooking oil has reached temperature get ready for the batter.
  7. Lightly coat the vegetables in the flour on the plate, then dip them into the batter one at a time. Immediately and carefully use one hand to lay each vegetable in the hot oil, working in batches. Use, at most, half of the surface area of the oil to cook.
  8. Deep-fry the denser vegetables like sweet potato or carrot first, for about 3 minutes, until they turn golden brown.
  9. Transfer them to the cooling rack to drain off excess oil. Repeat with the other vegetables. Cook softer vegetables like asparagus, broccoli and pumpkin for about 2 minutes. The leaves are ideally dredged in flour just on side and cooked for about a minute or until crispy.
  10. Serve the tempura immediately, with a dish of dipping sauce to the side. Have the daikon radish ready
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