Bacon, Asparagus, and Green Shiso (perilla leaf) Tempura

28May12

Tempura is one of those dishes that I get a strong craving for every once in a while, and which I tend to order on the rare occasions I eat out. But I’d never been able to imitate the awesomely light and crispy coating that the professionals seem to effortlessly produce. That is, until I got the hang of the tempura batter I use in this recipe. If you think the batter is strangely thin, that may be because you have the mistaken idea that tempura is like fritters. Japanese tempura is light and lacy, not bread-y.

When you coat a single ingredient, you dip the ingredient quickly into the batter, without trying too hard to coat it completely. If, as in this recipe, you want to fry multiple ingredients together, you put a balanced combination of your chosen ingredients into a small bowl and spoon the batter over it, tossing lightly before scooping it out of the bowl with a lightly oiled spoon and sliding it gently into the hot oil in your deep fryer or frying pan. I chose bacon and asparagus and shiso for my combination, not only for the complimentary flavors, but also for the colors.

Ingredients:

Bacon, fresh asparagus spears, fresh perilla leaves, all cut into smaller than bite-sized pieces. You want them to be recognizable, but they need to cook through quickly.

Batter: egg, flour, potato flour (or cornstarch), ice-cold water

Vegetable oil heated to 340 F (170 C) degrees in a wok or deep-sided pan.

Directions:

1. Crack a fresh egg into a measuring cup and scramble it with a fork or tiny whisk. Add enough ice-cold water to the egg to reach the 1-cup mark on the measuring cup.

2. Sift 1/2 cup all purpose flour and 3 Tablespoons potato flour (katakuriko) or corn starch into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3.  Pour the egg-water mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with fork or whisk very briefly to mix ingredients, but not too thoroughly. You want to leave some lumps and unmixed patches.

4. Take a little of the bacon, a little of the asparagus, and a little of the perilla and place them together in a small mixing bowl.

5. Spoon some of the batter over the ingredients in the small bowl and toss together, without worrying about coating the ingredients evenly.

6. Take a lightly-oiled metal spoon (the size of a soup spoon) and scoop the the battered ingredients from the bowl, then let them slide off the spoon gently into the hot oil in the pan.

7. After 30~60 seconds, remove the crispy ingredients from the oil with chopsticks or a metal net scoop, and lay it on a metal rack to drain, then to paper towels to drain some more.

8. Because of the bacon, this tempura is already seasoned and doesn’t need tempura sauce or salt, but you can sprinkle a little fresh lemon juice over it if you like.

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