"Japan celebrates new seasonal produce like nowhere else on earth and spring vegetables are prized for their tenderness and delicate sweetness. Chef Chase Kojima (Sokyo), uses a special tempura batter to lock in the magic of vegetables - the tempura tradition was brought to Japan by Portuguese Christian missionaries in the 17th century - they developed this style of cooking to make their vegetarian diet more interesting. Chases uses a soda siphon and xanthan gum to thicken and stabilise his batter and the gum locking in the fine bubbles." Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Earth
Here's how to you can use an excellent tempura batter to lock in the magic of springtime vegetables - it's certainly worth the crunch!
- 200 g young broccolini stems and flowers
- 200 g asparagus
- 200 g broad bean pods
- 100 g wasabi leaves
- 2-3 litres rice bran or any good quality vegetable oil
- Finely grated daikon and wasabi, to serve
- 25 g dried kombu sheets
- 10 g dried shiitake mushrooms (optional)
- 200 ml kombu dashi (see above)
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 60 ml (¼ cup) mirin
- 50 g finely grated daikon, or to taste
- 10 g finely grated wasabi or ginger, or to taste
Tarragon ponzu (optional)
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) tamari
- 60 ml (¼ cup) rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp tarragon chopped fresh tarragon
- 2 g finely grated garlic
- 2 g finely grated ginger
- 300 ml mineral or soda water
- 3 g xanthan gum
- 60 g tapioca flour
- 60 g rice flour
- 4 g salt
- 1 cream whipper siphon gun
- 2 cream bulb chargers
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For this recipe you'll need a siphon gun.
Standing time overnight
To make the kombu dashi, wipe any loose particles from the kombu sheets. Place the kombu and shiitake mushrooms (if using) in a bowl with 1 litre water. Refrigerate overnight.
To make the tempura sauce, drain the kombu dashi into a saucepan and discard the solids. Add the tamari and mirin and bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes to cook off any alcohol in the mirin. When ready to serve, add the grated daikon radish and wasabi to taste.
To make the tamari ponzu, (if using), place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
To make the tempura batter, place the mineral or soda water and xanthan gum in a blender and blitz for about 1-2 minutes or until smooth and thickened. Pour the mixture in a large bowl. Add both the flours and salt and whisk till evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the siphon gun. Charge the siphon with one cream bulb at a time, making sure you give a very good shake between each charge. Leave the siphon gun in the refrigerator until ready to use.
To prepare the spring greens, cut the broccolini into 7 cm pieces. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus stalks from the centre to the bottom. Trim off the woody bases, then cut the spears into 6 cm pieces. Pod the broad beans. Wash all the vegetables under cold running water, then pat dry on paper towel.
To cook the tempura, heat the oil in a large saucepan to 175°C.Get your siphon gun, give it a good shake and turn it upside down and trigger the tempura batter into a bowl. Place the bowl on top of another bowl that has been filled with ice water so the batter stays cold. You want to keep the batter as cold as possible.
Working with one vegetable at a time, dip the vegetables into the tempura batter, making sure the whole piece gets the coating of the tempura batter and slowing add to the oil. Be careful not to drop the vegetables into the oil as it can splash and be very dangerous. Add it slowly, starting from the side closest to you. Use a spider and chopsticks to move the tempura vegetables to prevent them from sticking to each other. The broccolini and asparagus will take around 90 seconds to cook, the wasabi leaves 75 seconds and the broad beans 60 seconds.
Once the vegetables are ready, remove with the spider onto a cooling rack and season with sea salt. Place all the fried vegetables on a large serving plate and serve with tempura sauce (and tarragon ponzu, if using), with grated daikon and wasabi on the side.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Emma Warren. Creative concept by Belinda So.