I really love vegetable tempura, but it often the batter contains eggs, so I have to skip it when I’m eating at a japanese restaurant. But it’s really easy to make eggless tempura at home. You can absolutely pick up a box mix of “tempura powder” at a local asian market and skip the egg the directions call for — even the box says it’s optional. Or, you can use this recipe and make your own batter from scratch.
When you see “serve immediately” at the bottom of this recipe, I’m not kidding. You want to have absolutely everything set and everyone ready to eat when the veggies come out of the oil. As the veggies cool, the once crispy breading will begins to soften, leaving you with soggy tempura. No fun. So make sure you have your place settings, your dipping sauce, and your friends or family ready to go once the veggies hit the oil.
The oil temperature needs to be 180º C or 350º F. If you add a lot of veggies to the oil at once, not only will they stick together (not so bad), but the oil temperature will drop like a rock (very bad). Tempura fried at too low a temperature will never become crispy. It’ll cook, but it’ll be a soft, heavy coating instead of a light, crispy one.
How can you tell if your oil is hot enough? When you drop a batter coated veggie in, little bits of batter will explode off the veggie outward like tempura fireworks. These bits, called tenkasu, are a good indication that your batter is hot enough. The veggies should cook for 40 seconds to 1 minute and feel crispy when you knock them around. You don’t need them to be golden brown, so don’t wait for that.
Most vegetables will cook to the perfect tenderness in that time, including harder ones like carrots if you keep their width to 1/4″ thick. For harder vegetables like squash or sweet potatoes, you may want to briefly blanch them to get them going before frying. But broccoli, mushrooms, and green beans or snap peas don’t require any pre-cooking at all.
I recommend a traditional tentsuyu dipping sauce for these. My recipe is a little different than the ones you find online, but it’s my favorite.
1 Liter Vegetable Oil, for frying
1 Stalk Broccoli, florets only
2 Carrots, sliced on the bias, 1/4″ thick
1 Cup Mushrooms, your favorite
1 Cup Sugar Snap Peas or Green Beans
(Feel free to use any vegetables you like!)
1 Cup Cold Water (very cold!)
1 Cup Flour
2 Pinches Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tbs Ener-g Egg Replacer Powder mixed with 3 Tbs Water
1/4 Cup Extra Water, if needed, for thinning
Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce
1/4 Cup Vegetable Stock, or Dashi if you have it
1 Tbs Sugar
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Tamari
1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water
Heat all the sauce ingredients in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Chop your vegetables, making sure harder vegetables like carrots are no more than 1/4″ thick if frying raw. Blanch vegetables like squash or sweet potatoes, if using.
Heat your oil to 350º F. A little bit of batter dropped into the oil should float to the surface immediately, and little bits of batter should explode off the veggies when frying.
Dip your vegetables in the batter.
Drop an assortment of battered vegetables into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd. You may need to turn up the temperature of the oil, because the vegetables will cool it.
Fry for 40 seconds to 1 minute until very crispy and light. Drain on a paper towel for a few seconds.
Serve immediately with dipping sauce and/or salt and pepper.