My brother recently mentioned having made tempura-style orange chicken, which led me to look online to find out what exactly tempura was, since I’d not to my knowledge had it before.
I learned that tempura is Portuguese-inspired Japanese, foods fried in a very thin batter coating. I recently tried a batter coating for strips of chicken and ended up replicating, except for having seasoned the batter, Chinese restaurant chicken fingers. The kids loved it, and I figured the batter was a way to stretch the limited amount of chicken.
Usually tempura is made with eggs, flour and cold water. The cold matters to the chemistry, much the way hot presumably mattered in my recent test of a faster flour tortilla recipe. The egg apparently doesn’t, because I found it is possible to make tempura without it.
I’ve learned that the best way to arrive at recipes or adaptable inspirations for dishes that contain no dairy and no eggs is to include “vegan” in the search. It seemed kind of odd to search for vegan tempura, but in addition to its most common use in seafood, tempura is also used for vegetables, which I look forward to trying. I’ve had that kind of thing in a restaurant, if not by that name, with cauliflower, squash and broccoli.
Here is what I did…
2 Cups flour (Too much, for 3 chicken breasts, could halve it or use more chicken, or whatever you’re using this on.)
2 Cups cold water (I put ice cubes in it ahead of time.)
2 Heaping teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon or so of salt
A little oil – maybe a tablespoon or so.
Season as desired or not at all. I used a bit of red pepper, a dash or so of garlic powder, and a bit of black pepper.
I deiviated from strictly tempura by crumbling some Ritz crackers fairly fine and dipping one side of most of the pieces of chicken in it. I also considered using oatmeal similarly.
No deep fryer here. Enough oil in a frying pan, nice and hot, to be able to cook one side then turn it over.
I cut the chicken into very small strips and chunks, the better to cook fast and go with the lightness of the batter.
I put the dry ingredients in a bowl and mixed them together with a whisk. Then I poured in the water and oil. Started with half the water and mixed, then the rest. You might watch how it seems and back off or add to the amount of water. Stirred it thoroughly. It bubbled a little and looked a lot like pancake batter. I ended up just drowning all the pieces of chicken in the batter, pulling each one out and putting them in the pan one at a time in two batches. I ended up frying a small patty of batter and crumbs from the batter that was left on the crumb plate. That was yummy and suggests possibilities.
This is very much a keeper. We inhaled it. On one of the recipes I saw for vegetable tempura, it said serve and eat immediately lest the batter get soggy. With the chicken I’d also say eat it sooner than later, because it isn’t as good in texture after it sits a while. Tastes good though. The vegetable tempura recipe also said dredge in flour before dipping in batter. I can see that being useful for veggies. Chicken worked without. Would it have worked better with? Not sure.
Since I have never had tempura in a restaurant, and in fact the only Japanese restaurant food I’ve had is noodles, I can’t compare. Even if it’s not “real tempura,” it’s so good I can’t wait ti try it again.