Several years ago, I was a student in a Japanese university Ibaraki Prefecture. There was a small group of exchange students from my university in America, three girls and four boys. The boys stayed in a boarding house, and the girls were places in Japanese homes. I was placed in the Nogi home. I had a Japanese brother named Ochiaisan and a Japanese sister named Keiko. Ochiasan spent his time studying trying to get into a university, and Keiko was a student at the university where I was. Mr. and Mrs. Nogi decided they wanted to reach out to the other American students. Mr. Nogi had an office attached to the house, and they invited all the American students along with some Japanese students to his office along with a tempura chef. We watched the chef as he cooked the tempura. This evening, as in times past, I made tempera for my family, and I will share what I did with you. I used to have a Japanese cook book with a recipe, but I lost it a long time ago, but I still remember how to make the tempura.
The first thing you do when you begin cooking most Japanese meals, I washed and started cooking the rice. If you want to know that process and don’t know, you will have to look back at another blog. I explained how to make rice Japanese style when I explained how to make katsudon.
Next, I washed and prepared the vegetables. When the Nogis set it up for us to watch the tempura chef and eat tempura the first time, I couldn’t believe they were frying vegetables, and I could hardly eat them, but I soon learned they were good, and I couldn’t get enough of them after that. I let my daughter and son in law choose which vegetables for this evening because they would be eating the vegetables. They chose sweet potatoes and egg plant. Most people make sweet potatoes when they do tempura. Other things they choose are things like green beans, but we can’t find them here in Korea. They also use onions and what they make are like onion rings from a hamburger joint in America, but my daughter and son in law didn’t want onions. Often they peel carrots, then cut them up in little shoe string pieces, and clump them in clumps and fry them by the clump together. Use whatever kind of vegetable you like. I didn’t begin frying yet.
Next, I prepared the tempura batter. I used two cups (450 grams) of flour, 2 eggs, 4 teaspoons of baking soda, and enough water to make it into a batter.
Next, I poured cooking oil into a sauce pan and heated it up. While it was heating, I washed, peeled, and sliced the sweet potatoes and the egg plant. I put some of the sweet potatoes in the batter before I was finished preparing all the vegetables because I didn’t want the oil to get too hot. I monitored the fire so that the oil would be hot, but not so hot that it would burn anything. I put the sweet potato slices in the batter, then I dipped them out one by one and placed them in the hot oil with the batter all over them. The baking soda will make them blow up as my kids called it. They will puff and as they cook, become crunchy. Keep frying them on both sides. While they are frying, get a plate and place paper towel on the plate. When they are golden brown on all sides, use either a slotted spoon or a slotted spatula and dip them out onto the plate with the paper towel.
Next, fill the batter with sweet potato again and do the same thing. When you get done with the sweet potato, do the same thing with the egg plant or whatever kind of vegetable you choose to use.
When all the vegetables were done, I dumped my shrimp in the batter. Be sure to use shrimp that doesn’t have a sand string left in it. If you buy shrimp with a sand string, then you will have to take time to take all the sand out before you use them. Often here and in Japan, they use huge shrimp for tempura, but I have always used the small shrimp because I am more accustomed to cooking them. I cooked the shrimp the same way I cooked the vegetables. I made a separate plate to drain the shrimp on.
When the shrimp was finished, the tempura was finished. If you have done onions, before you cook anything else, you will want to put a potato in the oil and cook it to absorb the onion flavor before you cook anything else. Potato cleans cooking oil. If you don’t clean the oil after cooking the onions, everything you cook after you cook the onion will taste like onions.
When my son in law got home, we all had our tempura together, and we all enjoyed it. Usually, the Japanese put some soy sauce in a small dish and put it on the side, but since we always eat in our living room on the couch rather than at a table, we just sprinkled soy sauce over our tempura before we age it. Don’t leave the soy sauce out because it is like using salt in America. Japanese food just isn’t as good without it.
If you look at the title, you see that I have written “Tempura; Twigim.” Twigim is how the Koreans say tempura. You can buy this here in many places. They have someone cooking it over at Home Plus, one of the big stores like Super Walmart. Sometimes my daughter and I like to go and get some, but this time I made it made, and we really enjoyed it.