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Vegetable and Shrimp Tempura

Vegetable and Shrimp Tempura
An iconic dish of Japan, tempura was introduced to the island nation by missionaries from Portugal in the sixteenth century. The Japanese refined this foreign dish, serving it with a dipping sauce. Here, the sauce calls for bonito flakes. These delicate, buff-colored, almost translucent flakes are shaved from a bonito fish that has been dried and smoked. The shavings have a subtle fish taste and aroma, and are one of the principal ingredients in dipping sauces and bonito stock, or dashi.

Ingredients:

For the dipping sauce:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 heaping Tbs. bonito flakes
  • 3 Tbs. dark soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. mirin (Chinese rice wine)
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar

  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 oz. green beans, trimmed
  • 1 zucchini
  • 5 fresh shiitake mushrooms, about 1 1⁄2 inches
      in diameter, stems removed
  • Canola or peanut oil for deep-frying
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water
  • 8 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions:

To make the dipping sauce, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. Stir in the 1/4 cup bonito flakes, return to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and return the bonito stock to the pan. Add the soy sauce, mirin and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the 1 heaping Tbs. bonito flakes and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Let the sauce cool to room temperature before serving.

Cut the carrot into pieces 5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Using as much of the sweet potato as needed to yield 1/2 cup, cut into slices 1/8 inch thick and then cut each slice in half to form half-moons. Cut the onion into slices 1/2 inch thick. Cut the green beans into 5-inch lengths. Cut the zucchini into pieces 5 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Cut the mushroom caps in half.

Preheat an oven to 250°F. In a wok or deep saucepan, pour in oil to a depth of 5 inches and heat to 370°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, sift together the cake and rice flours, salt and baking soda. In a small bowl, using a fork, beat together the egg yolks and ice water. Stir the egg-water mixture into the flour mixture just until the batter comes together.

Working in small batches, dip the vegetables into the batter, allowing any excess to drip off, and then slip them into the hot oil. Deep-fry until light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the vegetables to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Transfer to an ovenproof platter and place in the oven. Between batches, use the skimmer to remove any bits of batter from the oil.

Before dipping the shrimp in the batter, make several slashes in the underside (concave side) of each shrimp to prevent curling while frying. Reheat the oil to 370°F and, working in batches, dip the shrimp into the batter, allowing any excess to drip off, and then slip them into the hot oil. Deep-fry until light golden brown, 30 to 60 seconds. Using the skimmer, transfer the shrimp to the platter with the vegetables. Serve the tempura with the dipping sauce.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Asian, by Farina Wong Kingsley (Simon & Schuster, 2003).