One of the boys’ favorite dinners in Tokyo was an all-you-can-fry-and-eat tempura house … with a chocolate fountain for dessert, no less. Ben and Nick were more excited about the do-it-yourself dining than the menu.
After choosing skewers of chicken, beef, salmon, scallops, mushrooms, onions, potatoes and other deep fry-able treats, we dipped our fancy into bowls of ice cold tempura batter then into little cauldrons of hot fat nestled in the table tops. It’s the kind of place one should only ever go on vacation because otherwise it would form a calorie-heavy addiction.
Of course, there was also a wonderfully fresh selection of lettuces, pickled vegetables and other Japanese salad ingredients; most of which we ignored for a second trip to the skewer department. The dipping sauces were loaded with umami therefore dipping the skewers in the katsu, teriyaki and ponzu sauces made the fried skewers even more delicious.
Here’s a simple make-at-home version of tempura skewers and salad the whole family will enjoy. The cool, crisp texture of the veggies are a great complement to the hot fried meat.
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Tempura with Watercress, Shaved Fennel & Cherry Tomato Salad
1/2 medium head fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Chicken, pork, beef or tofu, cut into 1” squares (approximately 4 pieces per person)
1 box tempura batter mix
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 bunch watercress
Combine fennel, onion, tomatoes, rice vinegar, peanut oil, salt, pepper and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate.
Thread chicken, pork, beef or tofu onto bamboo skewers.
Prepare batter according to the package instructions, making sure to keep the batter as cold as possible until using.
Dip the meat into the batter and fry immediately in the hot oil. When the batter is golden brown, the meat will be perfectly cooked. If you’re unsure, check with an instant read thermometer.
Add watercress to the salad ingredients and toss; arrange salad on 4 plates, dividing equally. Lean hot tempura skewers against salad, dividing equally, and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings
For more tempura cooking tips, check out Katie’s blog post.
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