Tempura with a dashi-based dipping sauce is a peerless combination, but having freshly made dashi on hand is not always realistic. Adding a dollop of curry paste to a tempura batter, on the other hand, is easily accomplished. Just as the recipe for classic Japanese tempura dictates, the batter should be somewhat lumpy to achieve a light, crispy coating when fried. In place of using only water, I like to add an ice cube to the batter to keep the mixture from growing tepid as I deep-fry.
When fried in a curry-based batter, the vegetables are savory and flavorful on their own without needing an accompanying sauce. Just about any vegetable pairs well with the curry, though I am partial to eggplants. Whenever I have stewed kale on hand, I dip large sections into the batter and deep-fry until the leaves are irresistibly crisp.
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup water plus one ice cube
- 1 or 2 zucchinis, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 or 2 eggplants, depending on size, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- A dozen or so button mushrooms, halved
- 4 tablespoons curry paste
- 2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- additional flour, about 1/2 cup, for dredging
Sprinkle the slices of eggplants with 1/2 teaspoon of salt; set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, with a paper towel, pat dry the moisture from the slices.
Place the curry paste in a bowl along with 1/4 cup of water. Mix well. Then add the egg and flour to the bowl, and mix lightly. The batter should be somewhat lumpy. Add the ice cube to the batter just before use.
Heat the oil in a wok or skillet to 350°F.
Pick up one vegetable slice and lightly dredge with flour. Then dip the slice in the batter, and add it to the hot oil. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the vegetable, until the batter is golden brown and the vegetable is cooked through. The mushrooms will take longer (about 4 minutes). Transfer the fried vegetables to a rack to prevent the coating from becoming soggy. Eat as soon as possible for optimal crispiness.