Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Recipe: Tempura Vegetables

After trying several different Japanese restaurants and being disappointed time and time again that their tempura isn't "authentic," meaning that they use wheat products instead of just rice flour, I made my own. It's become a favorite of in my house and it's surprisingly easy to make...tempura vegetables! I was always afraid to fry food (and I still don't do it that often), but I felt better about it after I saw an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats - he explained that the food doesn't actually absorb much of the oil. To prove it, he used a full bottle of oil in his dutch oven, fried the food, waited until the oil cooled, and poured it back into the same bottle. Not much was gone. He says you can save the oil to use again...even freeze it! So that's what we do.

Here's what you need for about 4 servings:
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil, for flavoring frying oil
  • 2 cups rice flour, 1 C for dusting + 1 C for batter: Thanks to Gourmet Magazine, I'm convinced that the best rice flour on the planet is Authentic Foods Brown Rice Flour Superfine
  • 1 egg yolk (I haven't yet experimented with a replacement to make this egg-free)
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 cup broccoli florets (try not to cut them too small)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally in 1 1/2 inch strips
  • 4 ounces mushrooms
  • 5 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in half
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in 1 1/2 inch strips
  • 2 Japanese eggplants, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices

Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil to 375 degrees F in a wok or deep-fryer (I use my dutch oven). Flavor with sesame oil (optional). Be sure to turn on your range vent fan. Dry the vegetables well. Dust them in flour to soak up remaining moisture, shake off excess. Mix up the batter: In a mixing bowl, lightly beat egg yolk and pour in ice water, slightly mix. Add the 1 C flour all at once, stroke a few times with a fork just until ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be somewhat lumpy.

Dip the vegetables into the batter one by one. Drop 6 pieces at a time in hot oil. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes. To keep the oil clean, skim the small bits of batter that float in the oil between batches. Remove the fried pieces from the oil and drain on a paper towel. You can keep them in the oven on a low setting until you are all done frying and ready to eat! We even re-heated them in the oven the next day and they came out crispy!

Serve with dipping sauce suggestions below:

  • wheat-free Tamari Soy Sauce - straight up!
  • mix up some wasabi paste if you like it hot
  • No Nut Sauce: combine 2 T sunflower seed butter (or other nut/seed butter of your choice) with 2 t Tamari Soy Sauce and 1 t agave nectar (or sugar). Add some grated ginger if you'd like
More options: Prepare chicken tenders, shrimp, or scallops the same as the veggies.


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