Tempura – Fall down seven times, stand up eight.

Tempura (6 of 7)

One of my favourite foods is tempura. It is easy to do as long as one gets the batter right and the oil temperature just so. Easy IT IS NOT! It’s like saying juggling Samurai swords is simple as long as you don’t lose your concentration or your hands.

In Samurai sword analogy terms, a couple of previous attempts have led to the latter. The soggy battered mess that I prepared made me think of committing Seppuku. I had given up in despair until the Wife suggested that It might be a ‘nice’ alternative to grilling some brill.  When the Wife suggests, I spring into action, faster than you can say “Don’t bleed on that kimono.”

I have two ingredients shots for this post. I tempuraed (is there such a word) a variety of stuff including brill, prawns, spring onions, chilis, ginger, pepper, white asparagus and sugar snap peas.


An eclectic mix of stuff gets the tempura treatment. Chop everything to about the same size.

The second ingredients shot is the more important because it contains the batter ingredients.

An interesting mix of ingredients, if I say so myself.

An interesting mix of ingredients, if I say so myself.

For the batter you will need:

  • 80 grammes of flour
  • 80 grammes of cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A bottle of soda water

The most important thing to do is to put the soda water in the freezer for an hour before making this batter. Once the batter is made, you need to move like an attacking Ninja. So, get all the vegetable and fish chopping done and be ready to move with stealth and grace when the time is right to make the batter and cook the tempura. You should also get your oil (I use sunflower oil for this.) to the correct temperature. About 180ºC works for me.

You have to move at speed now. Your honour depends on it.

You have to move at speed now. Your honour depends on it.

Sieve the flours, baking powder and salt into a big bowl and break in the egg. Whisk this until it starts to turn into a big gloopy mess. Then start adding the soda water. It should be just off frozen to work correctly.

Mix in the soda water until you get a light-ish batter.

Mix in the soda water until you get a light-ish batter.

Don’t beat the bubbles out of the soda water. They will help to keep the batter light and crispy. Immediately dip some vegetables, prawns, fish or whatever into the batter and pop it into the hot oil. They will cook pretty quickly. Turn them once. Then lift them out to drain on kitchen paper. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the balance. You will be moving with the speed and elegance of a master swordsman at this stage.

How tasty do they look? A nice translucent batter does the trick.

How tasty do they look? A nice translucent batter does the trick.

I spent more time trying to get the food to stand up nicely for the photograph than I did cooking it. While this was going on, the Wife was gorging herself on the balance. It was extremely good to eat, healthy and satisfying. This was my third attempt. My first success.

You will forgive me a second shot of the finished dish. The chili was a star in this. Try it.

You will forgive me a second shot of the finished dish. The chili was a star in this. Try it.

As they say in Japan: Nana korobi ya oki.  “Fall down seven times, stand up eight”.
Hey, I did it in three!

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Latest comments
  • Lovely plating.

    • Thanks Rosemary, That’s how cold tempura looks.

  • It looks delicious!
    A Japanese friend told me that to make the best tempura, one should leave it a bit lumpy 😉

    • Yes MD, your friend is not wrong. Keeping the soda water almost freezing helps too. Having messed it up a number of times, I don’t profess to be an expert but I nailed it this time.

  • Well worth the effort. I think tempura is the best fried food ever.

    • No question. The lighter the batter the better the dish.

  • Gorgeous! And now I want Japanese food.

    • Surely they had that back in 1972? I can just imagine the lardy batter!

  • Beautiful dish! I adore tempura, but have never dared try it myself. I am such a cowardly cook.

    • Brave up! Eating the mush I created the first couple of times helped to accentuate the difference when I got it more right. Give it a go.

  • I had a tried and true technique years ago, but I have lost his phone number… Invite a tempura chef for dinner. He even arrived with his own electric skillet.

  • Stunning!

  • Fabulous. Next time perhaps…?

    • Any time you are here, I’ll gladly give it another go.

  • Nice plating shot, Conor, and great looking dinner. I love tempura. This is another reason Baby Lady should let me get the deep fat fryer I’ve been wanting. 🙂

    • Thanks Richard, I was pretty happy with it. I used the wok for the deep frying. One uses less oil and after a bit of trail and error, the temperature is pretty controllable. Having said that, Christmas is not too far off…

  • Looks delish. Hope your share wasn’t too cold by the time you’d finished the photographs.

    • We both know the truth of that. Still, I did cook some more and really enjoyed it.

  • Sweet potato and kabocha (pumpkin) slices are delicious when deep fried in tempura batter.

    • Thanks Roy, I would imagine they are both delicious. Thanks for stopping by.

  • As they say, third time’s the charm! Well done, Conor. You have restored your honor and all is right with the world. And in your tummy.

    • Too true Tommy. The Wife approved and that is all that matters in the final addition.

  • Love tempura! Didn’t know it was so hard though. What size bottle did you use? And did you use the whole bottle?

    • It was a half litre bottle and I used about a third of it. It really is trial and error (lots of error).

  • lovely. get a fuller type of chili, cut it open along one side and stuff with cottage cheese. then batter them. used to have that in Ethiopia. very good.

    • That reads so well. The cheese would be a lovely counter for the chili.

  • Good for you. Tempura, man, you just have to be paying such close attention… Ken

  • Shouting out from the tempura-side of the world, yours looks absolutely perfect and I love the crunchy’soft texture of a wellmade one also. Methinks once you have the feel, you’ll never go wrong again!! Happy next times . . . 🙂

    • I hope you are right Eha. Getting this far was a struggle.

  • Conor, fair play to you tempura is a bit of a challenge to say the least! And photographing it isn’t easy either! I remember my husband and I struggling to get a nice pic for my blog post. A pleasure to read your blog as always :0)

    • Thanks Fiona, too kind indeed. And from an expert too!

  • them portugese folks know how to do fried food right. i’m impressed beyond words. the brill looks great.

    i was wondering, conor, now that you seem to have mastered the fine art of tempura, are you in dire need of a new challenge? if you are, try to make yourself some kakiage. they are, in my humble opinion, god’s gift to soup garnishes, and i have yet to succeed at making them despite myriad attempts.

    • Oh I adore kakiage, so tasty and goes great on top of a a clear noodle soup or a bowl of boiled rice!

      • I will have to give it a go. Very delicate which might be a stretch for me.

  • Tempura is one of my faves too! We should eat tempura at the Okura hotel next time you’re in Amsterdam. It requires 3 years or so to become a tempura chef. The tempura there has a lightness you won’t believe until you try it. Yours looks pretty good though 🙂 The dipping sauce is also important — using freshly made dashi made a big difference when I tried it. Happy birthday!

    • A treat in store. And thank you, another notch on life’s gun.

  • I had a bento box on Friday. The chef had made tempura with anything they could, from crab sticks to aubergine and sweet potato. Amazing stuff! We might have eaten the kitchen sponge in form of tempura too, but with a batter that good no one cares. Thanks for the recipe!

    • The batter is key. Mine was good but I have eaten great. No comparison, I’m afraid.

  • I love how thin and I’m sure crispy the tempura batter is.

    • Thanks Karen, nice and crispy indeed (this time).

  • Thank you for this.I have cheated and,(this might make you mad), dipped fish pieces in egg whites and then in a dry mix of cornstarch, flour and baking powder.(At least I got that right!)Cold club soda and whole egg. It’s on my to-do list.

    • I approve of the cheatery. I might just give that one a go. In fact, it is pretty close to a lot of Chinese stir frying (bar the baking powder).

      • It works nicely, Conor. The only trick is to cook them just before you serve them.

  • Beautiful! Did I tell you I got my husband to eat prawns? They were in a lovely wonton, and I did not tell him until afterward what he had just eaten! Hee hee!

    • I hope he is converted. It’s never too late.

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