Shrimp tempura is my favorite type of tempura. And today, I will share with you a Japanese chef’s technique for frying shrimp.
When I lived in Tokyo, I routinely visited this tempura shop late at night for a few grab-n-go snacks. I remember their shrimp tempura batter being very light, crispy and flaky to the touch. I was curious on how they made the batter puff-out so much. Every time I tried to make tempura, the batter would be too thick and overpower the shrimp.
One day, I found out the answer when I was seated at the bar, where I could get a bird’s-eye view of the kitchen. I saw the chef pour tempura batter into the fryer first. He would stir it around and then wrap it around the shrimp. This is how they created such a puffy and crispy layer around the shrimp.
I was amazed by this frying technique and kept staring at the chef, wide-eyed in admiration. Try practicing this cool method at home and adding tempura to your repertoire.
Key taste variable: Oil temperature
Oil temperature is the other key ingredient. For those with a heat gauge, bring the oil up to around 340-360 degrees F. If you don’t have a gauge, drop a bit of the tempura into the oil. If the batter comes up right away instead of sinking to the bottom of the pan, it’s higher than 370F. If the batter goes halfway to the bottom and comes up, it’s about 340 to 360F. If your oil heats up too quickly, simply turn off the heat and let it cool down.
Shrimp Tempura - Japanese Chef Style
Yield 2 people
Today, we will try a cool method for frying shrimp tempura - used by Japanese chefs in Tokyo.
- Shrimp - 10-15
- Flour - 1/2 cup
- Vegetable oil - 1.5 - 2 liters
- Water - 2 cups
- Ice cubes - Handful
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Eggs - 1
- Flour - 1 cup
- Peel and devein each shrimp. Keep the tail on.
- Cut the underside of the shrimp half-way through (at the joints) to straighten them.
- Flip-over to the top-side and score the shrimp half-way through (at the joints) at a slight angle.
- Use your fingers to squeeze the shrimp and stretch them out.
- Dry them on paper-towels. Finally, coat each shrimp with flour and pat-off any excess. Set aside until frying time.
- Pour cold water into a bowl. Place ice cubes in to keep it batter cold. Add the salt and egg. Mix everything together.
- Then add in the flour. But do not whisk it in! Instead, gently push in the flour until all of it becomes moistened. It's good to have lumps in the mixture. (Reference video for more details.)
- Put oil into pot or fryer. Turn on medium heat and bring up to 340~360F. Place a few drops of batter into oil to gauge the temperature (refer to long text above).
- When oil is ready, slowly pour a little bit of the batter into the oil. Stir-around with chopsticks (be careful of oil!). Let the flakes cook for 10-15 seconds.
- Use a strainer (or other utensil) to gather some flakes into a corner of the pot. Then pick-up a shrimp and dunk into the wet batter. Place the shrimp in the corner, on top of the flakes. Use chopsticks (or a fork) to cover the rest of the shrimp with flakes.
- Fry until light golden color (roughly 1-2 minutes). Repeat for each shrimp.
- Throw in a few ice cubes to keep the batter cold. A cold batter translates to a light texture when fried.
- Do not over-mix or whisk the batter. Gently push the dry ingredients into the water until they become soaked. It will look lumpy - that is what we are looking for!
- See video for more details