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Summer Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura

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Serves eight as an appetizer; six as a main

Crispy wisps of batter and a speckling of black sesame seeds give these shrimp and vegetable tempura textural as well as visual appeal. Though the amount of cornstarch in the batter may seem high, it's the key to a delicate coating; unlike flour, cornstarch has no protein and therefore no ability to form gluten, which keeps the batter from getting tough, no matter how much you stir it.

For the dipping sauce:
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 cup soy sauce, preferably dark
For the vegetables & shrimp:
  • 1/2 small eggplant, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4-inch half-moons;
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 medium zucchini , cut on a sharp angle to make elongated ovals
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seded, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 16 green beans (1/4 lb.) , ends trimmed
  • 1/2 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1 medium sweet onion, cut into rings 1-inch thick, then pull off the outer layer of skin
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 16), trimmed of woody bases 
  • 1 lb. shrimp (preferably very large), peeled and deveined 
  • About 3-1/2 qt. canola oil for deep-frying
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the batter:
  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 1-1/2 cups cornstarch
  • 2 cups club soda
  • About 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, chives, thyme, rosemary); more to taste
  • About 1/4 cup sesame seeds (preferably a mix of black and white); more to taste

In a small bowl, stir the lemon juice, water, mirin, and soy sauce. Set aside.

Sprinkle the eggplant lightly with salt and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Dry all the other vegetables and set aside. Dry the shrimp well, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Summer Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura Recipe

Pour 3 to 4 inches of oil into a deep, heavy pot. Begin heating the oil to between 350° and 360°F.

In a medium bowl set over an ice bath, combine the flour and cornstarch; whisk to blend. Whisk in the club soda gradually.

Continue whisking until the batter is smooth, and then add the herbs and sesame seeds. The batter should coat the back of a spoon as a custard would; your finger pulled across the spoon should leave a clear line. If it’s too thin, whisk in 1 to 2 Tbs. more flour and add more herbs and sesame seeds, if you like.

Set up a work area next to the oil: the vegetables and shrimp on the far side, the bowl of batter over an ice bath, and then the hot oil, which should be up to temperature. On the other side, set a tray or plate lined with paper towels.

Dunk a vegetable or shrimp in the batter to coat well and, without shaking off excess batter, quickly but carefully lay it in the hot oil (the batter will drip). The oil may spatter; you may want to use tongs. Repeat with three to five more pieces and monitor the temperature of the oil.

Summer Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura Recipe

Fry the tempura until the batter turns a very pale gold and the food is tender but still a little firm, 2 to 3 minutes. If the pieces huddle together, separate them with a mesh skimmer. Turn the pieces if necessary.

With a mesh skimmer, transfer the tempura to a paper-towel-lined plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue dipping more pieces in the batter (stirring between rounds) and frying. Skim off batter particles from the oil between rounds.

Summer Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura Recipe

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per appetizer portion; Calories (kcal): 530; Fat (g): fat g 31; Fat Calories (kcal): 280; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 2; Protein (g): protein g 17; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 25; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 48; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 2100; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 110; Fiber (g): fiber g 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

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