Two things to love about the South:
- They pickle everything.
- They fry everything.
As you might imagine, I think fried pickles are just about the most brilliant invention of all time. When I was thinking about how to amp up basic tempura, I remembered these delightful dill-flavored crunchers. I could have just dipped regular old dill pickles in tempura and called it a day, but I thought that seemed a little too dull. Instead, I raided my fridge and pantry for some homemade, briney treats.
I started out my tempura experiment with some Snap Peas that I pickled using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. As they bathed in the hot oil, their crispy batter firming up, the peas swelled and popped, putting on a show for me. I could hardly wait while they drained and cooled on paper towel. When anticipation got the best of me I bit. Snap! Crunch! The pickly pea was a hit. So so so good. I can't wait to try this again with Marinated Mushrooms, Dilly Beans, or Pickled Peppers.
The other pickle I tested out was Stella's Beets, a sweet beet pickle from The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking. They were really good too! The soft beet against the crispy tempura was a textural treat. That particular pickle is one of my favorites anyway, with hints of cinnamon, clove, and allspice, so it was hard not to enjoy it.
Tempura frying pickles is actually not a huge leap from conventional Japanese cooking. Frying pickled greens in tempura is a fairly popular (and utterly tasty) practice. In between pickled treats, I fried up some other ingredients from my produce stash. Sweet Potatoes are probably my favorite veggie for tempura, so those were a natural choice. Have you ever tried them in a sushi roll? Next time you make sushi, try putting some tempura veggies and Japanese mayo in a maki. You'll freak out.
I had a whole bunch of turnips on my hands, so they fried up next. I'm not crazy about turnips in general, but they did really well in tempura. Their bitterness was totally mellowed out, and they ended up tasting a lot like an extra flavorful potato. Last, I popped in a few cubes of marinated tofu from my latest batch of Ginger Garlic Tofu. I cut bite sized cubes, covered them in batter, and let them get deliciously crispy.
Other fresh veggies that you'll love cooked tempura-style:
- Cauliflower(Try sprinkling it with curry flour first)
- Zucchini and Summer Squash
- Blanched Beets (dust them with cornstarch before dredging in batter)
- Sliced Radishes
- Fresh Green Beans
- Kale, Collards, or Mustard Greens
- Celery Root
- Green Tomatoes
- Onion Rings (The bigger and sweeter the better)
- Brussels Sprouts (Slice them in half to make them easy to eat)
- Pickled anything
Serves two to four
- 4 cups high-heat cooking oil (heated to 350 degrees)
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cups ice water or ice-cold carbonated water (or more as needed)
- Veggies sliced and prepped for frying
- Heat the oil in a deep pot.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients, then quickly stir in the water. Don't over-mix, stir until just combined, leaving some small lumps.
- Dip the veggies one at a time into the batter, then carefully drop them into the oil. Be careful not to splash yourself with hot oil. Turn the veggies occasionally to make sure they cook evenly.
- Fry the veggies in the hot oil for one to two mintues, or until the batter becomes crispy, golden, and brown. Remove to a dish lined with paper towel.
- Serve immediately with warm tempura sauce.
Serves two to four
- 1 cup vegan dashi (or water)
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons ponzu sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated daikon radish
- Warm the dashi, soy sauce, and salt in a small sauce pan.
- When the mixture becomes piping hot, remove it from the stove top, and add the ponzu sauce.
- Divide into two or four bowls, then divide the grated daikon between them.
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