By MITSUKO NAGASAWA/ Senior Staff Writer
October 14, 2020 at 07:30 JST
Editor’s note: The theme of Gohan Lab is to help people make simple, tasty “gohan” (meals).
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This week as our series is aimed at assisting you to getting used to deep-frying, we'll focus on tempura.
We've chosen carrot and burdock root for our ingredients. Deep-frying brings out the characteristics of root vegetables such as their earthy aroma, gentle sweetness and crisp texture.
Since the oil tends not to splash about so much when frying root veggies, they're also great to use to practice making tempura.
The coating is the key to tempura. We've planned the ratio of the flour, water and egg to give it a light-tasting texture.
The amount of egg to flour and water is so small it might make you worry if it's enough, but the runny batter will thinly coat the ingredients.
There are three things you must do to control the gluten in the flour that causes the stickiness and weighs down the coating. Keep the water cold, don't mix the batter too much and use the prepared batter right away. If you can, sift the flour before use.
Other than carrots and burdock root, thinly sliced lotus root and pumpkin should also be fried for four minutes in 160-degree oil.
Even if “tendashi” (dipping sauce for tempura) isn't available, you can enjoy tempura with salt. Why not use the leftover egg to make clear soup? Together, they make a perfect match for dinner.
CRISPY VS. STICKY
The cooking science aspect of this week’s recipe is supervised by Fumiyo Hayakawa, who heads a unit specializing in food quality assessment at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.
The Japanese language is said to be rich in onomatopoeia. The expressions used for deep-fried food are ones characteristic of that, Hayakawa says.
The words “sakusaku” and “paripari” that describe food that's “crisp” or “crunchy” are also used to describe positive feelings toward something, such as to “work in a sakusaku manner.”
On the other hand, words for failed tempura such as “jitojito” and “betabeta” (sticky and wet) are associated with a feeling of discomfort and are also used in such expressions as "The weather is jitojito, meaning hot and humid.”
“They describe different states of cooking, and resulting feelings of pleasantness or vexation,” Hayakawa says.
BASIC COOKING METHOD
(Supervised by Akiko Watanabe in the cooking aspect and Fumiyo Hayakawa in the cookery science aspect)
* Ingredients (Serves two)
1 small carrot (120 grams), 70 grams burdock root ("gobo"), some flour to dust ingredients, frying oil to be 3-cm deep in pot (2 cups in pot 18 cm in diameter)
For the batter: 90 grams (180 ml) flour (cake-flour type), 3/4 cup (150 ml) cold water, 1 Tbsp beaten egg
About 475 kcal and 1.4 grams salt per portion
1. To make dipping sauce, add 3 grams dried bonito flakes (1 pack), 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp sweet mirin sake and 1/2 cup water in pot and place over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, simmer over low heat for 2 minutes and drain through a sieve.
2. Peel carrot and cut into 4- to 5-mm-square sticks that are 5 cm long. Scrape skin off burdock root, rinse and cut into slices 6 cm long and 5 mm thick. Immerse in water for 5 minutes to remove harshness and pat dry. (PHOTO A).
3. Lightly dust carrot and burdock root with flour so that batter sticks better. Heat oil to 160 degrees.
4. Place cold water and beaten egg in bowl and mix with cooking chopsticks. Add flour and combine (PHOTO B).
Divide in half, add carrot and burdock root to each to be battered. When batter falls right away when vegetable is lifted, add a little flour.
5. Pick up a few carrot sticks with chopsticks and place in oil. Repeat. About 4 bundles may go into the pot 18 cm in diameter at the same time. Fry without moving for 2 minutes, turn and fry for another 2 minutes or so (PHOTO C).
Drain oil well, remove on a wire rack without stacking the bundles. Fry about three slices of burdock together in like manner. Dip in sauce and enjoy.
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Akiko Watanabe is a cooking expert specializing in Japanese cuisine.
Fumiyo Hayakawa is an expert on quality assessment of food at the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization.
“Isobe-age” (food deep-fried with laver sheet or powder) of “chikuwa” surimi.
This is an additional dish to use up the bit of batter remaining in the bowl. Mix 2 tsp laver powder (“aonori") in batter. Cut length of 1 "chikuwa" in half, slice each in half lengthwise and dust with flour. Coat with batter and deep-fry in 160-degree oil for 2 minutes.
When tempura is being fried, the batter comes into contact with the hot oil and the water content evaporates instantly, creating numerous holes inside the batter, which create the crisp texture.
But heat is gradually transmitted to the ingredient covered in batter. This way, the water content of the ingredient is retained, and it turns out succulent. The difference in the textures of the coating and the ingredient appeals to your palate.
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