The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com
I was very excited to read this challenge – I have never even thought about making tempura before and I probably never would have were it not for this challenge. I don’t often make anything deep fried but I am game for anything when it comes to the daring cooks, so when I got home from work last Monday I filled my pot with one and a half bottles of oil and jumped straight in.
I made the noodle salad first and it was fairly simple, apart from not being able to find soba noodles in the shops to I was forced to substitute another noodle variety. I am absolutely smitten with the dipping sauce. It is just SO tasty and So more-ish. I could very happily just eat noodles and that sauce all day.
The batter for the tempura was whipped up in no time and I started of with the veggies as recommended. I had some aubergine, carrot, cucumber and mushroom. I did wonder at first why they were not turning brown as I was sure that tempura I have seen in restaurants was a more golden colour, but after a while it became apparent that they were not going to brown, and I checked online and the ones made by the other daring cooks so far were not brown, so I fished them out and all was well.
I love how tempura is so versatile – the possibilities are vast for what can be battered and fried. A fact that my kitchen assistant, aka big kid, aka other half, was uick to pick up on once I had finished tempura-ing all the veggies and the prawns and there was some batter leftover. I could almost see the cogs turning in his head and when he walked out the room and walked back into the room with a Mars bar, I knew what was coming. For those of you who don’t know, the Scottish are famous for a few things. Whiskey, Haggis, and deep frying anything and everything, from pizza to Mars bars. Yes, mars bars. A fact which my Dutch partner finds fascinating and I suspect has always wanted to try.
So once I had got the veggis and prawns to a minimum safe distance away, into the batter went the mars bar and then into the oil. All I can say is that tempura-ed Mars bar is wrong, on many levels, and don’t try that at home. We did taste it in the interest of culinary science, but it did not work. At all. I chalk it up to a daring daring cooks experience.
Thanks to Lisa for an awesome chellenge and looking forward to next months 🙂
2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Cooking the noodles:
Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.
Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions/green onions/scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 ? gm) (0.16 oz) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder
1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste – roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each
Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.
1 egg yolk from a large egg
1 cup (240 ml) iced water
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch)
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice e.g.:
1. Aubergine, thinly sliced, blanched
2. Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
3. Cucumber, sliced diagonally
4. Assorted fresh mushrooms
5. Eggplant cut into strips
6. Onions sliced
Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.
Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.
Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.
Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor.
Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.