The Secret to Super Light Tempura
Hawaii News Now has been gracious enough to let me be a part of their Sunrise show, during their Kitchen Creations spot. I’ll be filming another segment soon, so stay tuned for that! Click on the link to see the full clip from my last shooting: Tempura Kakiage.
The Secret to Super Light Tempura
For my last appearance, I stirred up some light and fluffy vegetable Kakiage live on the show. Business reporter Howard Dicus was in the studio to do the traditional TV host taste test and I could tell what he was thinking before he even picked up the ball of deep fried tempura battered veggie sticks. Most people think anything deep fried by definition is going to be heavy and greasy. It’s not.
Howard’s reaction was great. He first grabbed one of the bigger cakes and was immediately trying to break off just a piece or find a smaller cake to try. I remember him saying something like “naturally it turns out to be really huge”. He was probably thinking that even a small sample was going to leave him feeling full. When he took his first bite he had a priceless and genuine reaction.
“Oh, that IS light”
Tempura + Temperature = Tempura’ture
The secret to great tempura is temperature. Fresh ingredients, a good leavening agent like soda water and just the right amount of mixing (not much) are also important, but for maximum expansion you need to go from ice cold to 360 degrees in one swift step. You can put ice into the batter to make sure everything stays cold when you mix it up but make sure no ice gets stuck in the vegetable cake when you transfer it to the fryer.
Once in the oil the water inside the vegetables or whatever food you are deep frying is rapidly heated and turns to steam. Deep fried food is essentially steamed, very rapidly, from the inside out. When the cooking process is done quickly the rapid expansion of water inside the food makes it light and fluffy. As long as you don’t deep fry your food too long, the amount of oil that is actually absorbed is minimal. For really light vegetable Kakiage you are going for light yellow and not golden brown.
Try this at Home
We have tempura all the time at home. The tempura my wife makes at home is delicious, but not as light as what you will get from the recipe we used. For this installment of Kitchen Creations we were using a recipe supplied from Mariko Jackson aka “The Little Foodie”. It included soda water, which is something we don’t usually have on hand at home. The soda water acts as a leavening agent here and keeps the batter nice and light. The batter is very simple, just flour and water or in this case club soda.
Vegetable Kakiage is traditionally all mixed together in the same bowl using chop sticks. Thinly julienne the vegetables so they can cook quickly. I used onions, carrots, zucchini and Okinawan sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes oxidize quickly so I kept them in water until right before I mixed everything together. Deep frying your vegetables this way is really fast and simple and as I said before it’s surprisingly light and contains less oil than most people think.
Deep Fry FYI – Exploding Ice
Even a small piece of ice dropped into 360 degree oil can have explosive results. The ice is heavier than oil (remember oil floats on water) and immediately drops to the bottom. In contact with oil the ice is almost instantly turned into 360 degree steam. As each molecule turns into steam it expands something like 1500 times. You don’t need to remember the number but you do need to remember that dropping ice into your deep fryer or pan creates an exploding cauldron of hot oil; a very dangerous situation. When you grab your little raft of vegetables from the mixing bowl be very careful that you don’t catch any small pieces of ice along with it.
You can find a link to the recipe in the Star Advertiser here: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/31317934/kitchen-creations-tempura-kakiage