Tempura the Right Way

Something about expertise thrills me, which is why I love the tempura restaurants in Tokyo so much. Understanding that every piece of fish and vegetable needs to be cooked one at a time and served separately makes for a heck of an eating experience, and so does making the sauce and batters the right way. Here is a meal everyone wishes that they could make the right way, and now you can.

Seafood Tempura with Dipping Sauce

Servings: 4


Shrimp Batter:

  • 6 cups canola oil
  • 1 cup sesame oil (do not use toasted sesame oil, a brown oil highly flavored and not for frying)
  • 3 cups cake flour, plus some extra for dusting
  • 3 eggs
  • Ice water

Fish, Lobster & Squid Batter:

  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Ice cold sparkling water

Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons mirin, sweet cooking wine
  • 2 cups dashi, fish stock (recipe below)
  • 5 tablespoons usukuchi shoyu, light colored soy sauce
  • 1   1/2 tablespoons shoyu, soy sauce
  • 1   1/2 tablespoons sugar


  • 2 quarts water
  • 5 six-inch squares of dried kelp (kombu)
  • 1 cup tightly packed katsuoboshi (dried bonito flakes), also called hana katsuo


For Shrimp Tempura

Peel and de-vein one pound u-15 sized shrimp, leaving the tail attached. Cut off tips of tails to avoid water splatter when frying. Make 3 shallow ‘nicks’ with a sharp knife on the belly side of each shrimp to prevent curling during frying. Gently pound with side of cleaver to flatten.

Heat oils to 360 degrees.

Beat one egg in a quart measuring vessel and add enough ice water to make 3/4 cup. Transfer this mixture to a work bowl and add 3/4 cup cake flour. Mix several times with a pair of chopsticks, do not over stir.

Dust shrimp one at a time in the spare flour. Dip into the batter, keeping the tail clean. Shake off any excess batter.

Fry 5 to 8 pieces at a time until golden and crispy. Make extra batter as needed.

Serve with the dipping sauce.

For Fish, Lobster & Squid Tempura


Use one pound firm fleshed fresh fish such as small rouget, mackerel, porgies, puffer fish, snappers etc. Filet and score in an X on the skin side. Sometimes I like using little 2 or 3 ounce whole filets of fish and letting them curl up when they fry, it makes for attractive plating.


Use one 2 pound lobster, blanched and shelled. Cut into two bite pieces, shells reserved for another use.


Use 1/2 pound fresh young squid, a few inches long is perfect. I remove the quills or pens (cartiledge) and fry whole.


Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using wooden chopsticks, mix in the sparkling water until batter consistency is reached. Dip the fish and seafood into the batter and fry in 375 degree peanut oil, just a few pieces at a time. Serve on doilies, plated, with the shrimp and the dipping sauce.

Tempura Dipping Sauce

Yield: 2 2/3 cups

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot and bring to a boil. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Use or refrigerate. Garnish with grated ginger and daikon radish.


Bring the kombu and water to a boil over medium heat. This should take about 10-12 minutes. When about to boil remove and reserve kombu, add katsuoboshi and bring back to a boil, about 10-20 seconds.

Turn off heat, skim foam and let stand 3 minutes. Strain and use or refrigerate.

*To make a second stock for simmered dishes or recipes that require a less refined stock, simmer the used kombu and katsuoboshi in the same volume of water for 10 minutes. Strain and use or refrigerate.

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