What’s really important in this dish is that the water is ice-cold and the fish is just out of the fridge. Don’t let the batter sit for any length of time, and definitely don’t stir it until there are no lumps – lumpy batter, an anathema to European cooks, is just fine for tempura, and helps give the crisp, crunchy, multi-textured coating that defines the best versions.
- 1 litre vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 180 ml ice-cold water
- 2 ice cubes
- 45 g self-raising flour
- 45 g cornflour
- 500 g whiting fillets or similar (try garfish), cut into 2-3 cm lengths and chilled
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.
Heat the oil in a wok or large saucepan over high heat until about 180˚C. When it’s hot enough, turn the heat down to maintain the temperature and make the batter.
Place the water and ice cubes in a largish mixing bowl. Add the flours and, using chopsticks, give the mix a bit of a swizzle, but don’t stir too vigorously as you want it to still be lumpy.
Dip the whiting fillets in the batter quickly, turn up the flame on the oil and quickly deep-fry the fillets until the batter is crisp. It's a good idea to fry up to six pieces or so at a time; scoop out the loose batter bits before adding more fish. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately with soy or other dipping sauces.