Tempura Batters
Every time I make tempura I've been trying a different recipe in search of that perfect batter...

Batter Numero Uno
I'm looking for light and crispy with good texture retention, and my search got off to a reasonable start with the Eldorado Sushi evening, using a fairly simple recipe from Thai and South-East Asian Food & Cooking containing baking powder and egg. A good textured batter, but could be crispier.

Batter Number 2
Next up, Squid Tempura with a batter mix from Flavour First using baking powder and no egg. Also a reasonable batter, but could have been crisper.

Batter Number 3
On to Lemon Risotto with Tempura Oysters and this time a very simple recipe from The Eastern & Oriental Cookbook using just plain flour, cornflour and sparkling water. An equally good batter, which I think could probably be made more effective with a bit of practice, using real water instead of my Cava(!) and better temperature control.

Batter Number 4
The latest recipe I tried was by far the worst which I found randomly on the internet (yep, it serves me right) and uses egg yolk, and baking powder. This produced a dense heavy batter which lost any crispness almost immediately. I think using egg yolk is a mistake.

Apart from working more with the Eastern & Oriental recipe, I'm wondering if whisking in egg white might help to produce crispy batter?
I've been trying Cava straight from the freezer in my batters, which might be good, but might not. I could try other sparkly liquids I suppose (yeah, even water), other flour combinations (some rice flour?) and it's also possible I'm making the batter too thick, so some experimentation there too.

Batter Number 5
Definitely the crispiest batter so far - 50/50 mix (by weight) of rice flour and cornflour, mixed with near-frozen soda water from a bottle straight out of the freezer.
In fact, it looks like you can go too crispy - this batter was so crispy it was actually hard! You can moderate this a little by thinning the batter with more soda water, but I think I may have to roll back the crispiness a touch. Plus it was somewhat anaemic-looking - almost completely white.

I could try something like a third plain/rice/corn flour? I liked the soda water though...

Batter Number 6
This time I went for the one-third mix of plain/rice/corn flours (by weight) with iced soda water.
I put a little of the dry flour mixture to one side to roll the tempura ingredients (in this case, prawns and scallops) in before putting them in the batter.
The result was quite good - less hard and sharp than the previous 50/50 version, and taking on a nicer wheat colour when cooked. I also thought the flavour of the batter itself was a little better. On the other hand it could have been a bit more crispy, and our contents had a tendency to slide out of their little batter pockets (though to be fair, that could have been down to the fact that I got them from a supermarket so they were less than fresh, and getting a bit watery).
A pretty good batter, Rachel liked that last (50/50) one better, but I preferred this one. I think I'd go for slightly less plain flour. Something like 40/40/20.
Might be better to pre-dust the ingredients with a non-plain flour mixture too. Say pure cornflour?

Batter Number 7
Fed what seemed like an army of children, with a vast variety of ingredients.
Some of our vegetables were maybe cut a little large - aim for more bite-sized: The batter was more of a 40/40/20 batter corn/rice/plain by weight. Maybe slightly light on the corn. Wonder what the volume ratios are? I'll have to check that out - rice flour seems to be half the density of plain and cornflour half again, so something like 8/4/1 by volume?
Again I used iced soda water, and this time I chilled the whole bowl of mixed flours in the freezer beforehand too. To be honest though, when you mix the batter by pouring in the soda water it doesn't seem possible to leave unmixed dry floury bits the way you are supposed to. Perhaps I need to try adding the flour to the liquid? That needs getting the quantity of liquid just right though!
I used a plate of pure cornflour for pre-rolling the tempura this time.
Definitely closing in on my ideal batter - this was crispywith good retention without being hard, coloured up nicely and had a good flavour. Rachel still prefers the 50/50 mix, but I'm pretty happy with this.
I was also happy with the wasabi/mayonnaise/crème fraîche dip!

ingredient veg vegan
Batter Number 8
Finally. The perfect batter.
  • 80g corn flour
  • 80g rice flour
  • 40g plain flour
  • 150ml frozen vodka
  • 150ml near-frozen soda water
Freeze the vodka and leave the soda water bottle in the freezer until it's on the edge of freezing solid.
Weigh out the flours and combine them. Chill the flours and their bowl too, if you can be bothered.
The liquid quantities are only approximate - start with the vodka and add as much soda water as necessary to create a nice thick gloopy batter. Stir roughly with chopsticks, but don't overdo it. A few lumps are good. It's best to add the flour to the liquid, but it's hard to get the quantities right that way.
Mix the batter up immediately before using it, and don't make more than you can use up fairly quickly so the gluten doesn't soften and the batter lose it's crispness.
Have a shallow bowl of rice flour to roll moist ingredients (like seafood) in before coating them with batter.
This quantity will make enough batter to feed about 4 people if they aren't too hungry,
or 3 if they are.
Deep-fry in peanut or sunflower oil at 170°C (340°F) for vegetables, 175°C (350°F) for seafood. The tempuras will sink, fizzing, then float to the surface when cooked.
Job done!
I also tried this version with a dry Japanese beer (Sapporo) instead of the soda water, and that worked OK too, but I still think the soda water is better.
It's slightly difficult to tell, because I also filled a soda syphon with the mixture (following one of Heston Blumenthal's ideas for fish batter) keeping it in the fridge for 30 minutes until needed, but I still think making the batter immediately before using it is best.

Isn't cooking great? You get to eat your mistakes. Yummy.