Tempura—the crispy, deep-fried seafood/vegetable is a popular Japanese recipe that everyone loves. If you think about Japanese food, especially the ones commonly served in the US, tempura is probably one of the top three items that springs to the mind. I love a good serving of tempura, dipped in the light yet flavorful tempura dipping sauce. I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like tempura.
Even though tempura is an iconic Japanese food, it originated from Portugal. Just like some other popular Japanese dishes, the talented Japanese chefs and home cooks had perfected the original recipes and make them uniquely Japanese. That’s the main reason I love Japanese cooking: the dedication to continue improving and refining its cuisine and make it better, even though some recipes are not native Japanese.
While you can get shrimp tempura at many Japanese restaurant, it’s a dish that’s easy enough to make at home, with a few store-bought ingredients. For example: this gorgeous looking shrimp tempura bento takes about 40 minutes to make, including the assembling time. A perfect tempura should be crispy with a yellowish/golden, lacy exterior. My Japanese cooking sensei (teacher) and my friend Chef Robert Danhi taught me many precious cooking tips and techniques about making restaurant-quality tempura, which I will share with you below.
Tips and Tricks of Making Tempura:
- A great tempura lies in the batter, which should produce crispy, airy, light, and non-greasy tempura. Ice cold water and ice cubes are very important ingredients to the batter, and the deep-frying technique and the oil temperature are key to achieving the crispy lacy effect. A little baking powder also makes the batter crispier.
- The batter should be made just before the deep-frying. When making the batter, use a pair of chopsticks to stir the batter. Do not over-stir it as it should stay a little lumpy.
- Right before you use the batter, add in a few ice cubes and stir to combine with the batter. This loosen up the batter and chill it further to provide an airy, fluffy, and crispy exterior of the tempura.
- Cut off the pointed tail of the shrimp to avoid the shrimp from splattering while frying. (See picture guide in the recipe below.)
- To make a quick and easy tempura dipping sauce, use Mizkan (Bonito Flavored) Soup Base and dilute with warm water. The perfect ratio is 1:5. Add a little grated daikon and you have the perfect dipping sauce.
Now that you have the tips and technique handy, let’s talk about the shrimp tempura bento. I paired the tempura with Mizkan (Bonito Flavored) Soup Base, which has been diluted with water as a tempura dipping sauce. I also prepared salmon teriyaki, a healthy and absolutely refreshing baby spinach and tofu salad with Mizkan Miso and Mustard dressing, and serve it with rice. For the rice, I used a Japanese cylinder-shaped mold to shape the rice into two rolls and topped with some black sesame (use only Japanese short grain rice when making Japanese bento). As you can infer from the pictures here, this shrimp tempura bento looks like it’s straight from a Japanese restaurant and tasted absolutely delightful.