Deep-fried seafood and vegetables

The Complete Asian Cookbook
Alan Benson

Perhaps the most popular of all Japanese dishes among Western people, good tempura should be crisp, light, the batter a mere wisp that covers the food. It should never be the heavy coating found on traditional English-style fried fish (as in ‘fish and chips’). A Japanese chef told me that the secret is to have both food and batter very cold and that the batter must be freshly made and not allowed to stand for too long. Tempura is best served the moment it is ready, so cooking at the table in an electric frying pan or deep-fryer is particularly suitable.


Quantity Ingredient
12-16 raw prawns, peeled and deveined, tails left intact
500g skinless, boneless firm white fish fillets
350g frozen lotus root, peeled and thinly sliced
1 eggplant, halved and cut into 5 mm slices
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 5 mm slices
90g baby spinach leaves
8 spring onions, cut into short lengths
250g fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
4 tablespoons daikon, grated, to serve
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely grated, to serve
750ml vegetable oil
125ml sesame oil

Tempura batter

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg
250ml ice-cold water
pinch bicarbonate of soda
110g plain flour or tempura flour

Tempura sauce

Quantity Ingredient
60ml mirin
2 tablespoons shoyu
250ml Dashi
pinch salt


  1. Prepare the prawns, fish and all of the vegetables in advance. Arrange on a tray, cover, and refrigerate until serving time.
  2. The table setting for each person is a plate lined with a paper napkin for draining the fried food, a small bowl for the sauce and another small bowl with 1 tablespoon of grated daikon and 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger.
  3. To make the tempura sauce, heat the mirin in a small saucepan, remove from the heat and ignite with a match. Shake the pan gently until the flame dies, then add all of the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Set aside.
  4. No more than 10 minutes before serving, make the tempura batter and stand the bowl in a larger bowl containing ice. Break the egg into a bowl with the iced water and beat until frothy. Add the bicarbonate of soda and flour and beat just until the flour is mixed in — do not overmix. The batter should be thin; if it seems too thick, add a few drops of iced water.
  5. Heat the vegetable and sesame oils in a large heavy-based frying pan, electric frying pan or deep-fryer to 180°C. If sesame oil is not available it may be omitted, but it gives a deliciously nutty flavour to the food.
  6. Dip pieces of fish, prawns and vegetables, one at a time, into the batter and then gently lower into the oil. Do not fry more than about six pieces at a time, as the temperature of the oil must be kept moderately high for best results. As each piece turns golden (this should take only 1 minute), lift it from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain for a few seconds on paper towel, then serve immediately. Food is dipped in the tempura sauce and eaten while crisp and hot. The daikon and ginger are mixed into the sauce to suit individual taste.


  • A good way to use up any leftover tempura ingredients is to make tempura domburi. This is where the tempura ingredients are served with rice and sauce. Simply prepare 1 quantity hot cooked rice and re-fry the tempura above briefly to heat through. Put the rice in individual bowls, top with the tempura and serve with any leftover sauce on the side.
The Complete Asian Cookbook
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