I'm looking for a good tempura batter recipe. Anyone mind sharing? I know sometimes the batter gets all mushy on the inside, so a tried and true recipe that doesn't do that would be appreciated.
Also, how does one get shrimp tempura to be so long like the restaurants? I think they use just one shrimp usually, right? Is it just a really large sized-shrimp?
Before I was an itamae, I was the tempura guy at a small Japanese restaurant. The mix we used for the batter was just flour and cornstarch in a 3:1 ratio. Add ice water to make a batter that seems way too thin - thinner than pancake batter - and also resist the urge to mix it until it's smooth - the batter should still be kind of lumpy.
To prepare the shrimp, peel it and pull the little pointy bit of tail off, but leave the fan-shaped fins on. The pointy bit holds a lot of water, which will splatter in the oil if it's left on. Instead of cutting the shrimp to keep it straight, put the shrimp on the work surface leg side down. Push down on the shrimp, crushing the flesh slightly to break it up and straighten out the natural curve of the shrimp. This method is just as effective in preventing the shrimp from curling, but it's much faster - an important consideration when you've got to prepare a couple hundred shrimp a night.
The cooking technique is fairly simple. Grasp a shrimp by the tail and dunk it into the batter. Then carefully lay the shrimp in oil that is heated to about 350F. The shrimp should sink to the bottom of the oil, but then start to float within 10-15 seconds. If it pops to the surface faster than that, the oil is too hot. If it takes more than that, the oil is too cold. Once the shrimp is floating and bubbling away in the oil, dip a pair of chopsticks in the bowl of batter and drizzle the batter on the shrimp. Do this four or five times. This creates the delicate lacy crumbs on the shrimp. It's better to underdo this step rather than overdo it. Too little batter and it'll look a little plain but it'll taste just fine. Too much, however, and you'll end up with a thick buildup of doughy batter. This is also when you'll find out if your batter is too thick: thick batter just won't get lacy.
After the shrimp has been frying for about 90 seconds, turn it over in the oil to make sure the lacy bits gets nice and crisp. Then remove to a draining rack to let the excess oil drip away.
I'm sure there is a technical difference between tempura and beer batter, that's why I refer to mine as a beer tempura batter :):) What I have found is this...1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, pinch of salt and a good, full bodied beer. It usually takes about 2/3 of a 12oz. beer. Then, after butterflying the shrimp, I dust them in cornstarch, shaking off the excess. When I put the shrimp in the batter, I use my thumb and forefinger to flatten them out and drop into the oil. It gives them a nice wide look :):)
Recently tried a new tempura batter recipe.
1 egg yolk
1 C Ice Cold Water
1/2 C Flour
1/2 C Corn Starch
1/2 t Baking Powder
One thing I noticed about this recipe was how thin the was. escondido123, above, mentions a consistency of heavy cream. This batter was a tad thinner than heavy cream. More like half&half?
I was tempted to add more flour, but stuck with the recipe, which I'm glad I did. The results were as close to restaurant style tempura of the recipes I've tried.
My original approach to tempura was wrong. I was doing something similar to fish and chips where the batter had to really coat the food. I'm now a believer in a thin batter for tempura and the resulting a thin coating on the food before deep frying.
In regards to the shrimp, you can make light criss-cross cuts on the curvy bottom of the shrimp. The criss-cross cuts allow the shrimp to straighten out when cooked.
50/50 mix of rice flour and AP or cake flour, enough ice cold seltzer water to make a thin batter, barely mixed, still a bit lumpy. Hot oil (375 - maybe 350 if you're cooking vegetables that haven't been blanched - preheat it BTW since you don't want the batter sitting as you get the oil up to temp). Make sure the food is dry and then dip the food in the batter quickly and quickly pull it out and into the oil. Cook in small batches and let the oil temp recover in between batches. Serve quickly once fried (for Crissakes don't pile the batch you just pulled out of the oil on top of the last batch, making em all soggy and sad).
Really though, the most important part isn't even the exact recipe - it's making sure the oil is hot and the batter is of the correct consistency. You can make good tempura using all wheat flour or using a mixture of AP flour and cornstarch or using just plain ice water or even using an egg. Can't make good tempura with too-cold oil or too-thick batter.
To achieve the delicacy of excellent tempura, the batter is of course critical, as is the oil temperature.
The batter should be thin and somewhat watery and run easily off the spoon. If the batter is too thick, thin it with drops of cold water. Ideally, the batter should be used shortly after being made, but it may wait if necessary for not more than ten minutes. Here's the batter recipe that I've had great success with, it creates a very delicate, not at all soggy, fine tempura:
Combine one egg yolk with 2 cups of ice-cold water and 1/8 teaspoon baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Sift in 1 and 2/3 cups of flour and mix well with a wooden spoon.
The oil should be heated to 375 degrees F. in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet or casserole, or a deep fryer. Fill the pan with vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches. Fry only six to eight pieces at a time, turning after one minute and frying for another minute, until light gold. After cooking each batch, skim the oil, check the temperature of the oil and bring it back up to 375 if necessary before adding more pieces.
To cook shrimp, dip the shrimp in flour and vigorously shake off the excess before dipping one piece at a time in the batter, twirling it around to coat it, then drop in the pan of hot oil. Again, fry only 6 to 8 pieces at a time, and skim the oil between batches.
Pretty simple, the only challenge is keeping the tempura warm while you fry the rest of the food.
'I know sometimes the batter gets all mushy on the inside, so a tried and true recipe that doesn't o that would be appreciated.'
trick I learned from a Korean cook when I worked in an Asian restaurant: put the just-fried bits onto a metal grill to breathe, and not a piece of paper towel, because it will get soggy.
'Also, how does one get shrimp tempura to be so long like the restaurants? I think they use just one shrimp usually, right? Is it just a really large sized-shrimp?'
They carefully prep the shrimp before cooking: shell, take off all legs, then use a bamboo skewer down the back and keep it spread out. Difficult to describe w/o graphics, but the split meat gets butterflied.
Cook's Illustrated found that tempura batter turns heavy and thick when stirred too much and when sitting too long (too much gluten formation). Cook's Illustrated decreases gluten formation by replacing some of the liquid (selzer water) with vodka . The vodka trick was used in Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Crust Recipe.
Cook's Illustrated Tempura Batter
1.5 Cups All-Purpose Flour
0.5 Cup Corn Starch
1 Large Egg
1 Cup Vodka
1 Cup Selzer Water
Link contains recipe and explaination (scroll down to the Comments area);
re: Norm Man
Yes, very cold water is most important, and whisk only for a few seconds to avoid gluten formation, even if a few lumps remain. Tempura batter is wheat flour and cold water, nothing more. It's not necessary, but if you like the texture you get by adding some rice flour, go ahead. But eggs, seltzer, and vodka? That's not tempura. It may be tasty but it's more of a variation on beer battered shrimp than tempura.
And check the protein content of your flour. Lower protein brands like Pillsbury or Gold Medal AP (or cake flour) will be more forgiving than King Arthur AP flour.
Oh, yes. If the batter is mushy on the inside, you might be making the batter too thick. It should be the consistency of crepe batter or just a tad thicker.