It was with great delight that I spotted a vegan tempura starter on the menu of Tampopo, an Asian restaurant in Manchester. I immediately put it at the top of my restaurant hitlist and spent the whole day looking forward to some deep-fried goodness. So imagine my dismay when the waitress apologetically informed me that the batter recipe had recently changed and was no longer egg-free. My devastation was intensified by the fact that my boyfriend ploughed on and ordered some for himself regardless, and it was the biggest plate of tempura I’ve ever seen.
Fortunately my back-up choice of fresh Vietnamese spring rolls was heavenly, but still. Sometimes only deep-fried vegetables will do. And now I need no longer rely on other establishments to provide them (my next encounter involved banana tempura in a savoury dish and was perhaps a little too risky a combination for my conservative tastes), as I have this foolproof recipe to fall back on. What a relief.
Serves 4, from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
For the sauce:
6 cardamom pods, split open and discarded, seeds crushed
grated zest and juice of 4 limes
1 green chilli
50g coriander (leaves and stalks)
1 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp water
For the tempura:
80g cornflour, plus extra to coat the vegetables
80g self-raising flour
210ml soda/sparkling water
2 tsp rapeseed oil
1/4 tsp salt
chilli flakes, to taste
700ml sunflower oil, for deep frying
1.2kg of vegetables (I used pre-cooked beetroot chopped into wedges, and carrots and parsnips (peeled and cut into batons))
1. First, prepare the dipping sauce. Put all the ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cornflour, soda water, rapeseed oil, salt and chilli flakes to form the batter. Pour the sunflower oil into a large pan and heat it up for deep frying.
3. Throw the vegetables in the extra cornflour to coat. Tap off the excess.
4. Dip the vegetables in the batter to coat…
5. …then carefully add them to the pan of hot oil.
6. Heat for 2-3 minutes, flipping them at the midway point to ensure even cooking.
7. Remove with a slotted spoon and set them aside to drain.
8. Serve with the dipping sauce.