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Raise your hand if you don’t like Tempura. No one? I thought so! Great! I mean, really. It’s fried. So how could you not?

Ok then, this is definitely a recipe for you. Yesterday, I was trying to think of a good dinner option. I had a ton of produce at home partially thanks to what I earned volunteering at the Neighborhood Farm Initiative’s urban garden in DC and the rest due to me loving produce and stocking up. One of the things I had from the farm was a bunch of Okra. Now…I’m not always a fan of Okra…I think I prefer it in things like gumbo. Where it’s barely present in its original state.

Well, I didn’t feel like making gumbo…plus I didn’t think my sweet potato would be a good addition to that. I also had a good amount of swiss chard from the farm, which i LOVE. Random collection of veggies, you might say (I certainly did). While researching how to prepare okra, it struck me….TEMPURA! Aka…fried. Aka delicious. Aka I couldn’t wait to get home.

Now, my friend is trying to identify some food sensitivities so she has eliminated certain foods from her diet for several weeks (thanks for the idea, Back to Her Roots!) and she was going to be present for dinner. Since frying things typically requires flour, and usually I use all-purpose flour, and she is gluten-free during this period of time, I had to get creative. So, in keeping with the Japanese theme, I decided to use rice flour! I mean…fried rice flour = rice crispies, right? So rice crispies minus sugar plus veggies = amazing!(?)

I was SO excited. I set about to make this deliciousness happen. Clearly I have been wanting to deep fry something…because I bought this giant monstrosity from Costco a couple of weeks ago:

Don’t run away!

I know that’s a heck ton of oil, but no need to fear! When done right, deep frying is really not that bad (in moderation). It all has to do with the oil temperature. If it’s too low, oil will be able to seep in to your food which will then become soggy/soaked. When the oil is hot enough, the water within the food you are frying evaporates/expands so quickly that it pushes the oil out of the vegetable/meat. Proper temp + proper oil = healthy frying!

However, the oil can get too hot as well. Appropriate frying temp is between 180ºC and 190ºC.  Above that, your food may burn or your breading will burn before your food is cooked through. Each oil has a different smoke temperature.  Once you exceed that temp (your oil will start smoking, go figure!) your oil begins to form free radicals, which are carcinogenic (this is why you can’t use olive oil, folks.  Its smoke point is RIGHT at 190ºC.  Too close for comfort).  If your oil smokes you must stop cooking and trash the food you were cooking and the oil. No bueno. So use a thermometer and watch it carefully!

Yep, that’s up past 180ºC…aka up over 350°F….YEOUCH!!! Be very careful!

Hokay, so here’s what I used for my Tempura:

Servings = About 4

Veggies:

  • 1 Sweet Potato, Peeled
  • 1 Carrot, Peeled
  • 10 Okra
  • 4 Swiss Chard Leaves

Batter

  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1/2 Cup Very Cold Sparkling Water
  • 1/3 Cup White Rice Flour
  • 1/6 Cup (or more, as needed) Cornstarch
  • 1 TBSP Cajun Seasoning

Scallion Dip

  • 1 Dollop Light Sour Cream
  • 1 Dollop FF Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Dollop Honey
  • 1 Scallion, Chopped
  • 1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper

Begin by heating up the oil in a deep fryer or dutch oven (you’ll probably need at least 2 qts of oil). Please monitor with a thermometer that goes up past 200ºC if you aren’t using a deep fryer.

Slice the tops off of the okras (off with their heads!!) and cut in half. Slice the carrot at a diagonal in about 1/3″ slices. Slice the Sweet Potato in 1/4″ to 1/3″ slices. Do whatever you’d like with the swiss chard. Set the veggies aside to give them time to ponder life before they are fried to high heaven.

Now, for the batter! Whisk the egg and the cold water together until well blended and frothy. Mix in the flour, cornstarch and seasoning until blended thoroughly.

Easy peasy. Now you’re ready. Don whatever protective gear you’d like (gloves, apron, face mask ala radhaz workers, etc) and assemble your assembly line! Vegetables – Batter – Hot Oil – Cooking tray lined with paper towels.

To fry your veggies, simply bathe them in the batter and put them in the oil. I used metal tongs for this. Don’t crowd the veggies, they’re territorial. I cooked mine about 4 minutes each before taking out. The swiss chard takes between 30 seconds and a minute…it’ll become chip like in consistency. The breading on your tempura will be a delicious golden hue when it’s done! I used a mesh ladle to scoop the veggies out of the oil, let them drip for a few seconds, and then put them on the cooking tray/paper towels. I bought that ladle a while ago, not knowing what it was, but knowing that I needed it…I’m pretty sure this is its life purpose. Fried food.

Let your veggies cool a bit. Remember, they were just cooked at over 350ºF! While the tempura is cooling, mix together all the ingredients of your scallion dip (except for the scallions) in a small bowl until combined. Then mix in the scallions. Then put a spoon in there.

Guys, it’s time to eat. Take some of your lovely, lovely tempura, put a dollop of your dip on your plate, and enjoy! Tastes like being at a Japanese restaurant. Seriously.

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