Tenpura batter is made in almost the complete opposite way to western batter, so forget everything you know for this one! The trick to good tenpura is to make sure you have really cold iced water, and lots of small lumps of flour. Tenpura batter is kept very thin, so more batter is added on top of the food during the cooking. With a thin batter, the food cooks quicker, and therefore absorbs less oil, keeps its natural taste, and most of the nutrients stay in the food. With a thick heavy western style batter, the food has to cook longer and gets more oily. With tenpura it’s very small details like this that make the difference.
How to make Tenpura batter
Makes: about enough to fry 2 full main course plates of tenpura
Time to prepare: 10 minutes
200ml iced water*
1 whole egg
140g tenpura flour
20g potato flour
plus about 50g potato flour for dusting
*with ice cubes, not crushed ice. Never use sparkling water, this is a common mistake by many western chefs
1. First make sure your water has big lumps of ice in it. This is important to keep it cool for longer.
2. Crack the egg directly into the bowl of iced water. Use the chopsticks or your hand to carefully break the egg yolk, and mix it loosely in the water. Do not mix fast, or you will create a lot of foam. Foam creates air which is the enemy of tenpura!
3. Now add the tenpura flour and potato flour all in one go. Mix very slowly and carefully using chopsticks. Do not use a whisk or fork. You can use your hand if you struggle with chopsticks. If you use a whisk, you will activate the gluten in the flour, add unwanted air, and the batter will become stretchy like a pancake batter. Then you will end up with soggy, sad tenpura. So don’t do it, no matter how tempted you are.
4. Mix until you have broken up all the big lumps. Run the chopsticks round the side of the bowl to make sure it’s all incorporated.
5. Tenpura needs to have lots of small lumps of flour in order to work, so don’t mix it too much. It’s better to mix it less rather than too much.
6. Use your hand to feel the batter, and break any large lumps that remain.
7. Use the batter immediately. After about 20 minutes the flour will break down, and the batter will be no good.