Tempura (天麩羅,also written as “天ぷら”) was introduced to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century by early Portuguese traders. It is a dish of deep fried battered meats,vegetables or seafood.
In the hot and humid Japanese summer, Zen monks eat deep-fried vegetables, Shojin-age, to get over the fatigue of hard training. Although tempura preparation needs a little effort, take your time and enjoy the process as an artistic activity, like the monks do.
1/2 sweet potato cut lengthways into 2.5cm wide strips
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
4 shiso leaves
1 carrot cut lengthways into 2.5cm wide strips
1 red and green (bell) pepper cut lengthways into 2.5cm wide strips
1/2 large egg, beaten
1 cup sifted plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2-3 ice cubes
For the dipping sauce
1 1/2 cups dashi
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1. To make the dipping sauce, mix all the ingredients in a pan. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Set aside.
2. To make the batter, pour the ice-cold water into a mixing bowl, add the beaten egg and mix well. Add the flour and very roughly fold in with a pair of chopsticks. Do not beat. The batter should still be quite lumpy. add the ice cubes.
3. Pour in enough oil to come halfway up the depth of a wok or deep-fryer. Heat the oil until the temperature reaches about 170 Celsius degree.
4. Deep-fry the shiso leaves. Hold the stalk of one leaf in your hand and stroke the leaf across the surface of the batter mix, coating only one side of the leaf. Gently slip it into the oil until it goes crisp and bright green. Leave to drain on kitchen paper.
5. Lightly dust the rest of the vegetables with flour, dunk into the batter mix, then shake off the excess. deep-fry them two or three pieces at a time until crisp. Leave to drain on kitchen paper.
6. Divide the warm dipping sauce into four small bowls. Arrange the tempura on a large plate. Serve immediately.