How to Make Shrimp Tempura
Taking a bite of crunchy shrimp tempura is a heavenly experience enjoyed worldwide. We'll show you how to make your own crispy, delicious tempura and explain its Japanese roots, too.
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I’m always on the lookout for a good Japanese restaurant. Between the bold flavor profiles and the unique culinary methods—used by restaurants here in Milwaukee, at any rate—eating at one always feels like such a treat. You’ll find me ordering gyoza or edamame, but my favorite Japanese dish is light and crispy shrimp tempura. It’s the perfect way to kick off a great meal.
You don’t have to hike to a Japanese restaurant to get it, though. I’ll show you how to make shrimp tempura at home.
What Is Tempura?
Tempura is a Japanese dish where seafood, mostly shrimp or white fish, and vegetables are dipped in a flour-based batter and lightly deep-fried.
In Japan, you can get tempura at a variety of food establishments, from grocery stores to street food stalls to casual eateries. There are even high-end restaurants that specialize in multi-course tempura menus. And of course, it’s something people like to make at home since it’s excellent when freshly made.
The History of Tempura
The technique of making tempura was introduced to Japan in around 1600 by Portuguese missionaries. During sakoku (border closure to foreign countries), only a few were allowed to enter Japan, mainly from the southern port of Nagasaki. The deep-frying technique was introduced there, and the Portuguese word tempora became what is known as tempura today.
However, it wasn’t until later in the Edo era (1603 to 1867) that tempura became widely available to Japanese citizens. During this time, the country’s economy, arts and cultural entertainment all flourished, and tempura and other “fast food” like sushi, soba noodles and bento-style meals became popular.
Easy Shrimp Tempura Recipe
This recipe makes 26 to 30 pieces of shrimp tempura.
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2-1/4 tablespoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cold club soda
- 1 pound uncooked shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
- Oil for deep-fat frying
- Sweet chili sauce for dipping
Step 1: Make the tempura batter
In a large bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Stir in cold club soda until combined; the mixture will be lumpy. Be careful not to overmix or the batter will become elastic and the tempura will lose its crispiness.
Editor’s Tip: Make sure your club soda is ice cold!
Step 2: Prepare the shrimp
Using a paring knife, cut small slits along the inside of the shrimp to allow them to lay flat without curling up. This will help them keep their straight shape while being deep fried.
Step 3: Deep fry
In a Dutch oven, electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 375°F. Dip shrimp into the batter, then directly into hot oil. Fry shrimp, a few at a time, for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown. Pull them out with a spider strainer and drain the excess oil on paper towels.
Editor’s Tip: Traditionally, high-quality sesame oil is used in frying tempura. However, more affordable vegetable oil will work well, too. These are the best oils for frying.
How to Serve Shrimp Tempura
You can serve shrimp tempura immediately after frying with some sweet chili sauce for dipping, but there are many other ways to enjoy it.
The more traditional way to eat shrimp tempura is tempura soba, where tempura is served with buckwheat noodles in hot dashi broth. Tempura donburi is another popular and affordable dish. Here, shrimp tempura is served on a bed of rice in a bowl with sweet and savory sauce. At tempura restaurants, it’s prepared in front of guests and served with a dipping sauce (dashi, soy, mirin and grated ginger) or a specialty salt.
For a non-traditional way to eat shrimp tempura, roll it into sushi such as a shrimp tempura roll, crunchy roll or Godzilla roll. This adds texture and richness to elevate the sushi experience.
Tips for Making Shrimp Tempura
- If you plan to toss the shrimp in a sauce or eat them in a way that requires you to use a fork, remove the tail when prepping the shrimp.
- Make sure the shrimp are a uniform shape and thickness so they fry evenly and get crispy at the same time.
- For best flavor, use fresh oil for frying.
Koshiki Smith contributed to this article.