I love tempura. I almost always order it whenever I see it on the menu at a Chinese restaurant – the rest of the time I go for spring rolls, another firm favourite. Tempura is actually a Japanese dish, and it’s just vegetables (or sometimes seafood, though I avoid that for obvious reasons) that have been dipped in a really light batter, and deep fried.
I am aware that using the words ‘light’ and ‘deep fried’ in the same sentence may sound like a bit of an oxymoron, but tempura batter is so thin and crispy that ‘light’ just seems like the perfect way to describe it. It’s made with sparkling water, and the bubbles keep it really… light. There’s no other word!
You can use pretty much whatever vegetables you like to make your vegetable tempura – I went for mushrooms, cauliflower, and tenderstem (which I believe is known as broccolini in some parts of the world). If you’re not familiar with tenderstem, it’s very similar to broccoli, but it has long, thin stems that are really… well, tender (apparently I’m not good with words today). If, like me, you think the stalk is the best bit of broccoli, you’ll love tenderstem – it’s got more of the good bit!
The lovely folks behind tenderstem are keen to show that it makes a great addition to a romantic date night, and although deep-fried vegetables might not seem like the most elegant of dishes, I think vegetable tempura would be a great thing to cook on date night! Get your aprons on, and get involved in the cooking together. One person can batter, one can fry – much more fun than one person just sitting there getting bored while the other cooks. Just don’t start a playful oil fight…
I whipped up a really quick Asian-style dip to go with my vegetable tempura. It’s just soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, ginger, and a few slices of red chilli. I’ll admit, these aren’t flavours that I would usually choose to go for (I’m actually not a big fan of ginger), but I found myself dipping away, and really enjoying the combination of the tangy sauce with the crispy vegetables. Give it a go!
(PS. please don’t look too hard at my chopstick technique… I have no idea what I’m doing. But it works for me!)
(Ohhh, and PPS. If you’d like to win a hamper containing some tenderstem, and heaps of other ingredients to go along with it, stop by my Facebook page! You can also check out the tenderstem Facebook page here)
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
- 1 cm piece red chilli, sliced
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- ~ 15 stalks tenderstem
- ~ 6 medium mushrooms
- 100 g plain flour (~ 2/3 cup)
- 1 tbsp cornflour, heaped
- Black pepper
- Oil for frying
- 250 ml ice cold sparkling water (~ 1 cup)
First, prepare the dipping sauce. Combine the rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, grated ginger, and sliced chilli, and mix well to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
Next, prepare the vegetables. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, trim the ends off the tenderstem and remove any leaves, and cut the mushrooms into halves or quarters.
Combine the plain flour and cornflour in a large bowl with some salt and pepper.
Begin to heat up an inch or two of oil in a large, deep pan or wok over a high heat. When the oil is nearly ready, finish making the batter by adding the sparkling water to the flour mixture. Mix to combine, but don't over mix it, as you don't want to beat out the bubbles - it doesn't matter if a few lumps remain.
Working in small batches, coat the vegetables in the batter, and drop them into the hot oil. Cook for several minutes, turning the vegetables over halfway, until the batter is lightly golden. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a plate lined with paper towels while you cook the next batch.
Repeat with the remaining batter and vegetables. Season with more salt if desired, and serve with the dipping sauce.
Note: nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.