Monday, December 20, 2010

Guest Post: Globe Trotter Diaries

It is with great pleasure to introduce you all to Karen and Valerie another fun food and travel blog, it will draw you in with its wonderfully written posts, food and travel history and photos, I had so much fun adding them all to the post. I have a two year old so am doing well to get one good shot he he, enjoy everyone. 

My parents come wednesday please say a little prayer that the snow in the UK clears so they can take of! in the summer it was the Icelandic Volcano that delayed them!

Hi! I'm Karen and along with Valerie, we write a blog over at Globetrotter Diaries.  We foodie best friends are fascinated with food, history and the world and each week we "travel" to a new place and explore its food culture by cooking a local dish.

First off, thank you Rebecca for having a fellow globetrotter invade your fabulous space for the day. It's a great honor! It didn't take much time for Valerie and me to decide what to make. With the New Year right around the corner (can you believe we're almost done with the first decade of 2000's?!?!) and our love for everything naughty for the body this time of year, tempura seemed like a perfect dish. Valerie's family celebrates Japanese New Year with the traditional Japanese spread including tempura, perfectly light-as-air, crispy fried vegetables and seafood. Her family spends the day over a hot wok frying, snacking and repeating until stuffed to the brim. And for me? Well, if I can make an occasion of frying something I will. I've always warned my friends to never buy me a deep fryer as a gift because it will be the literal death of me.

The tradition of tempura has its roots in the Portuguese missionaries and traders that introduced this method of batter-dipped frying to Japan in the 16th century. In fact, the word tempura is derived from the Latin word “tempora” meaning “time period.” However, the consistency and texture of tempura is different from what we are mostly used to in the western world when it comes to fried foods. Instead of a thick casing of batter, tempura should be a light, crisp, barely-there coating. The minimalist approach to achieving this tricky consistency is simply flour, ice cold water, egg and a lot of practice. In our research we found recipes that provided extra lift and crunch by using everything from vodka to corn starch to seltzer to cake flour. We decided to fry like the women before Valerie and use a simple mixture of flour, eggs and cold water.
The trick here is to make sure:

Your batter is COLD. Use ice water and even pop the flour in the freezer for a while so it stays cold.
Do not overmix. This isn't to be taken in the same way that directions for baking cake say “don't overmix.” A better way to say this is “do undermix.” You want the batter to be slightly powdery and very very lumpy. Just a few turns of your chopsticks to incorporate the flour, and stop right there!\


1 cup of all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup of ice water
1 large egg
1 liter of vegetable oil, approximately
daikon (optional)
shiso leaves (optional)

Karen and Valerie's favorite items for tempura:

  • green beans, trimmed
  • sweet potato, peeled and sliced on a bias 1/3 inch thick
  • Japanese eggplant, sliced on a bias 1/3 inch thick, or cut into a fancy fan (see directions below)
  • kabocha squash, peeled and sliced 1/3 inch thick
  • shrimp, deveined and peeled with tail attached

To prepare the fancy eggplant fan, slice the cap off and cut it down the middle and then in half. Make parallel cuts lengthwise, but do not cut all the way to one side, leaving one side in tact. Fan out the slices with your fingers.

To prepare the shrimp, make two or three incisions (depending on how large your shrimp are) on the belly side. This will help prevent your shrimp from curling up when frying.

In a bowl, lightly break and barely mix the egg. Add the cold water and add the flour with chopsticks (or fork) and turn the batter a few times so that you still have a lumpy batter.
In a large Dutch oven or wok, pour about 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil. Turn the heat on medium high and using a frying thermometer, heat until it reaches 325 degrees. In batches, dip the vegetables (except the green beans) into the batter and gently lay them into the oil. Fry for about 3-4 minutes, turning once in between, or until just slightly golden. Remove onto a towel lined wire rack. Wait for the oil temperature to rise back before frying the next batch.

When you are finished, fry the green beans at 340 degrees for about 2 minutes, rotating once. And finally the shrimp at 360 degrees for about 3-4 minutes.

Serve with tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce). Serves 2:
1 cup of dashi stock
4 tbsps of mirin
2 tbsps of soy sauce

Heat ingredients together over medium heat, serve in small dipping bowls.
Serve the tempura on some decorative shiso leaves and with a side of grated daikon. To prepare this, simply peel the daikon and grate with a microplane grater. Lightly squeeze out excess liquid and serve on a plate along side your dipping sauce. Happy Crunching!

(Second image from here, rest of images by Globetrotter Diaries)

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