The last time I crafted a steaming bowl of Pork Udon Noodle Soup, I knew it was missing something – a side dish. For me, vegetable tempura is a perfect side dish to elevate the comforting allure of udon.
what is tempura?
Tempura is a dish that involves deep-frying seafood (rock shrimp, fish like salmon, prawn, crabmeat, oyster), vegetables, egg, or even chicken in a light and airy batter, resulting in a crispy and golden exterior while maintaining the natural flavors and textures of the ingredients.
As far as I know, the origins of tempura can be traced back to the 16th century when Portuguese missionaries and traders introduced the technique of deep-frying to Japan. Initially, the dish was known as “peixinhos da horta,” meaning “little fish from the garden,” and it mainly consisted of vegetables. Over time, the Japanese adapted and refined the cooking method, giving rise to what we now know as tempura.
The key to perfect tempura lies in the batter. It’s typically made with a mixture of wheat flour, ice-cold water, and sometimes eggs. The use of cold water is crucial, as it helps create a stark temperature contrast between the batter and the hot oil, leading to the signature crispiness.
You can serve tempura with a dipping sauce called “tentsuyu,” made from a combination of dashi (Japanese stock), soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), and sometimes a bit of sugar.
Besides being a side dish, you can enjoy this Japanese food as a standalone dish.
Baked vegetable tempura recipe
Traditionally, I need to deep-fry veggies in hot oil to make vegetable tempura. But lately, I’ve been a bit cautious about going too heavy on the oil. So, I decided to give the original tempura a little twist and went for the baked version. It’s easier and more convenient.
The first batch of my baked vegetable tempura didn’t achieve the exact same level of crispiness as the deep-fried one or have the tempura flakes. However, it was still enough for me. If you want an extra crunchy texture, you can use panko breadcrumbs in the batter. This created a crispier coating than regular breadcrumbs.
This is how to make Baked Vegetable Tempura:
Baked Vegetable Tempura
For the tempura
- Mixed vegetables e.g., sweet potatoes, zucchini, potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, eggplants, carrots) cut into thin strips or bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Cooking spray or oil for greasing
For the dipping sauce
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin Japanese sweet rice wine
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp grated ginger optional
- 1 green onion finely chopped (optional)
Making the tempura
- Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray or a thin layer of oil.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, iced-cold water, baking powder, salt, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil until you have a smooth batter.
- Dip each vegetable piece into the batter, ensuring it’s well coated, and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Leave some space between each piece to ensure even baking.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the tempura coating is golden brown and crispy. You may want to flip the vegetables halfway through the baking time for even crispiness.
- Once done, remove from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving.
Making the sauce
- In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and sugar.
- Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. If you’re using grated ginger, add it to the sauce for an extra kick.
- Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, then remove it from heat.
- Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature. You can speed up the process by placing it in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
- Once cooled, pour the sauce into bowls. If you like, sprinkle some finely chopped green onions on top for a burst of freshness.
Remember that the texture might not be exactly the same as deep-fried tempura, but it’s so much easier for you to do. Give it a try and see how you like it!