Mary Cooks: Tempura

Tempura is deceptively simple. The batter consists of just a few ingredients, and you don't even have to mix it thoroughly. It's one of my favorite foods, so, armed with explicit instructions from the Japanese Food section of, I embarked on another cooking adventure.

Mis en place

Veggies prepped

As always, first I prepped my veg. I selected carrot, zucchini, and red bell pepper. I cut them into sticks as the restaurant tempura I've found easiest to eat has been in this shape. According to, all you need is 1 egg, 1 cup ice water, and 1 cup flour. Beat the egg and then gently mix in the water and flour.

I think this looks about right

Once I had my batter, I heated a inch or two of oil in a heavy skillet. I used small kitchen tongs to dredge my veg through the batter and place in the hot oil and then placed the cooked tempura on a plate lined with paper towel.

Carrot tempura cooling while zucchini cooks in the background

And I learned the complexities of tempura that reflect its true nature. My tempura was soggy. Not greasy, but.....soggy. This can result from several factors, including over-mixing the batter, not using cold enough water, too much excess moisture in the veg, and not laying the cooked tempura in a single layer to cool. This can also be prevented by paying closer attention to all of those things, and by adding a little potato starch to the batter.  Even so, I was pleased enough with the results to pack up the left overs for lunch tomorrow.

I also prepared a little meat to accompany my tempura. Last year, I went to the Towson location of Pho Dat Thanh and had caramel fish for the first time. I've been fascinated with it ever since. I attempted to recreate the flavor of that dish this evening. I used chicken instead of fish and set bite-sized pieces to marinade in soy sauce liberally seasoned with ginger and pepper while I cooked my tempura.

Chicken in ginger soy sauce marinade

To get the caramel flavor, I preheated my pan but I let it get really hot. I then added the chicken and all of the marinade, followed quickly with about half a cup of water. I reduced the heat and let it come up to a boil, then added some sugar. When the liquid was reduced by half, I added some of Sunday's left over rice and let it simmer until the rice was sufficiently reheated. The sauce thickened as it cooked down.

The sauce thickening as it cooks down

The result was a very gingery brown sauce with a slight hint of caramel. Unlike the soggy tempura, the caramel chicken was a definite success.

Dinner for one