Have you ever made tempura at home? I wasn’t raised with a lot of deep frying. The only thing I remember my mom deep frying was cod and that only happened a few times a year. So, I have been a little hesitant about the whole process. One of the things I have learned in my macrobiotic studies is about the value of appropriate use of oil. It can aid with absorption of fat-soluble nutrients and can also help us feel satisfied with our meals and minimize cravings.
Recently, macrobiotic counselor Warren Kramer recommended that I make tempura regularly to help balance the drizzly, damp Seattle climate and ease my frequent cravings for bread.
At first it seemed like a monumental task to get everything together for tempura once a week. Instead, like a lot of things that appear daunting at first, after the first couple of times I have streamlined the process. It’s actually pretty easy and not nearly as time-consuming as I thought.
Plus, it’s helping. I feel so satisfied and relaxed after eating a few pieces of tempura. I usually don’t crave bread for a few days afterward. Tempura is also great for children because they need more richness in their food to fuel them.
The seltzer water helps lighten the batter without using leavening. In my experience, most restaurants add an egg to their tempura batter so being able to make it at home is useful. The garbanzo bean flour lends a lightness to the finished product. It doesn’t retain it’s bean taste and there is no gluten that can make the tempura a little chewy when activated. The grated daikon as a condiment will aid in the digestion of the oil. I like to add the daikon directly to my dipping sauce.
I don’t have a specific amount for the vegetables because it depends on how many people you are serving. I don’t think leftover tempura is very good, so just make as much as you will need. Also, I don’t know how many vegetables for this amount of batter, so just make a little more if necessary.
I like to make miso soup with added noodles and blanched kale. Then I put the tempura on top. Yum!
1 cup garbanzo bean flour (barley or whole wheat flour works, too)
2/3 cup plain seltzer water
two small pinches sea salt sea salt
high heat oil, like organic refined safflower oil (enough to fill your deep cast iron pot up to about 4″)
Assorted vegetables washed and cut into two-bite size pieces, most things less than 1/3″ thick (good choices include broccoli florets and stems, cauliflower, lotus root, sweet potato, winter squash, mushrooms, green beans, onion slices, carrot, daikon and turnip)
shoyu dipping sauce (can use gluten-free tamari)
freshly grated daikon radish
1. In a medium size bowl, mix flour, sea salt and seltzer water. The flour to liquid ratio will vary because every batch of flour might be a little different, but these amounts will be a good starting point. Add more flour or seltzer water until you get the consistency you want. You want a consistency that is between thick and runny. Kind of like cake batter. It needs to be able to stick to the vegetables and coat them evenly. Refrigerate to keep it cold.
2. Heat the oil in a cast iron pot that has high sides. I use one that looks like a medium size pot and I heat the oil on a medium temperature. Use a temperature gauge if you want. Carefully heat the oil to 350°. One way to know if the oil is at the right temperature is to drop a little batter in. If the batter falls mid-way into the oil and then rises to the surface then it’s about right. If the batter doesn’t sink at all and just stays right on the surface, the oil is too hot. If the batter falls all the way to the bottom and takes a little while to rise to the surface, it’s not hot enough. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the batter will just soak up a bunch of oil as it cooks.
3. Place a cookie sheet covered with a flat paper bag on top near where you will be making the tempura. When the oil is ready, dip vegetables one at a time to coat in batter and gently place in the oil. You can have about 4-5 pieces cooking in the pan at a time depending on the size of the vegetables and the size of the pan. They all need to sit on the surface of the oil while cooking. Take care to not overcrowd. Turn them over once as they begin to get light brown and pull them out of the oil when the whole surface is a light, crispy brown. It’s helpful to have long cooking chopsticks for pulling the vegetables out, but stainless steel tongs will work as well. Drain on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Every so often, remove the bits of cooked batter that accumulate in the oil. If they get too dark they can give a burnt flavor to the oil.
4. Keep making the tempura until you have 5-8 pieces for everyone. Serve them hot with dipping sauce and freshly grated daikon root.
A Note About the Oil: I was taught to strain the oil and place in a jar with an ume plum pit. Then, the oil can be reused one more time. This seems to feel right to me. It also saves down on the cost of using a big bottle of oil each time I make tempura.
Tempura Pots: I use a cast iron pot that has a small diameter. This way I don’t have to use as much oil to get it deep enough to deep fry. I searched online for a link to the one I have, but didn’t find it anywhere. Natural Import Trading Company sells a traditional tempura pot, just to give you an idea of what a wider pot looks like.