On the batter: Ireland’s love of tempura

JP McMahon: Those that believe tempura has no place in Irish food will be surprised

Tempura batter is exceedingly light, which is why it needs to be made just just before frying. Photograph: iStock

Tempura batter is exceedingly light, which is why it needs to be made just just before frying. Photograph: iStock

 

The art of tempura is alive and well in Ireland, due not only to our love of all things deep-fried, but also due to our connections with Japan. There are several Japanese restaurants in Galway, as well as a one Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant in Cork. Dublin also has some fine sushi and ramen bars.

We regularly had a tempura dish on our menu in Aniar, often braising lamb shoulder or pig's cheeks and then dipping them in a light tempura batter before frying them.

Those who believe tempura has no place in Irish food will be surprised to see food writer Colman Andrews including one in his The Country Cooking of Ireland (2009). Andrews first tasted a smoked eel tempura in Beech Hill Country House, just outside Derry in Northern Ireland.

Eel tempura pairs well with seaweed and oyster emulsion, both which feature regularly in our menus.

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An egg (or just its white) can be added to the batter if desired to make it even more fluffy and light. Tempura batter is exceedingly light, which is why it needs to be made just before frying.

It’s a misnomer to think that deep-fried food is any less healthy for one’s being. I find it ironic that people seem to think baking or roasting with oil is any different. Calorie for calorie, it’s much of a muchness. Everything in moderation, I say.

How to make eel tempura

Take 200g of smoked eel (Lough Neagh smoked eel can be purchased online from loughneagheels.com) and cut into 5cm lengths.

For the batter, combine 50g white flour, 50g rice flour and 50g corn flour. Season with milled dried seaweed and sea salt.

Mix in 250ml ice cold sparkling water but don’t over whisk as the mixture will become to glutinous.

Lightly flour the eel and dip into the batter and fry in batches in oil – it needs to be 180 degrees Celsius. Transfer the eel tempura on to kitchen paper to absorb the excess fat.

Dust with a little milled seaweed and sea salt and serve with a nice mayonnaise laced with freshly ground black pepper.

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