Shrimp Tempura (海老の天ぷら)

Once you have this recipe down, you can use your shrimp tempura in a multitude of other dishes, like tendon (天丼, tempura donburi), tenzaru soba (天ざるそば, tempura served over cold buckwheat noodles), udon (like nabeyaki udon, 鍋焼きうどん), bento box lunches, and sushi rolls (although I would recommend inserting a wooden skewer into your shrimp prior to battering and frying, just to ensure it stays perfectly straight and is easier to roll into whatever crazy maki you want to make). One of the keys to making a good tempura batter is to have all your ingredients very cold- I stick my flour in the freezer, and use ice water for mixing the batter. You don’t want to overmix your batter- it should be slightly lumpy, kind of like a very thin pancake batter. If you do overmix, you will cause big molecules of gluten to form, which will make your breading turn out tough and chewy, rather than light and crispy. I like take out a little extra insurance against gluten formation by substituting a few tablespoons of ice-cold vodka in place of some of the water (this also works wonders in breading fried chicken and also when making pie crust). I’ve also heard of some cooks using cold club soda in place of the water (allegedly the carbonation makes the breading lighter), and some recipes I’ve seen call for rice flour to be used in place of either some or all of the all-purpose flour. I may experiment with some of those ingredient swaps next time, but the following is a good base recipe, from the wonderful Japanese home cooking website Just One Cookbook.

To make the assortment of tempura seen in the photo, I doubled the batter recipe, and used 9 shrimp, 9 slices of sweet potato (scrubbed and sliced about 1/8″ thick- peeling is not necessary), 9 large broccoli florets (stalk ends pared thin to promote faster cooking), and 6 large shiitake mushrooms (caps only- shiitake stems are too tough to eat).  This completely used all the batter, and was more than enough for a group of three- next time I may only make 2 pieces of each kind of veggie and 2 shrimp per person. I find that shrimp and shiitake mushroom caps tend to require more batter than the other veggies, whereas thinly sliced veggies like the sweet potato need far less. Surprisingly, the broccoli did not require nearly as much batter as I anticipated, which was lucky, because I was running low on batter after frying those mushrooms. My shrimp did curl slightly while frying, but I attribute that more to the shape of my wok than the shrimp itself.  I recommend you taste the tentsuyu dipping sauce (written てんつゆ, 天つゆ, or 天汁) before serving, and adjust the flavor accordingly (for instance, perhaps adding a bit more dashi stock if the sauce is a tad too salty).

  • 10 large shrimp (I used U10-12 wild Gulf shrimp)
  • Corn starch for dusting
  • Oil for deep frying (vegetable oil : sesame oil = 10 : 1)
Tempura Batter:
 (rule is egg water:flour = 1:1)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) egg water (1 cold large egg (40ml) + 200 ml ice water)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) cold all purpose flour
Tempura Sauce:
  • ¾ cup (200 ml) dashi (or ¾ cup water + 1 tsp. Hondashi)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2″ (5 cm) daikon radish, grated and squeeze liquid out

  1. To make tempura sauce, combine dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and let it simmer until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Prepare shrimp (I recommend you read step-by-step instructions with pictures on “How To Prepare Shrimp for Shrimp Tempura” to clean and straighten shrimp for easier breading and frying from Just One Cookbook).
  3. In a deep fryer, heat 1½” (3 cm) of the oil to 338-356F (170-180C). You can check the temperature with chopsticks or with a thermometer. When you see small bubbles around chopsticks, it’s pretty much ready for deep frying.
  4. To make tempura batter, sift the flour into a large bowl.
  5. Add the egg into very cold water.
  6. Whisk the egg mixture vigorously and discard the form on the surface.
  7. As you slowly pour the egg mixture into the flour, mix the batter but do not over mix. It’s okay to leave some lumps in batter. Keep the batter cold all the time (you may want to try placing your batter bowl inside of a larger bowl filled with ice water to maintain the temperature).
  8. Dust corn starch on top of shrimp.
  9. Coat the shrimp in batter.
  10. Deep fry until golden brown. Do not crowd the fryer with shrimps; leave at least half of oil surface empty. Transfer cooked shrimp tempura to a wired rack or a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess oil. Between batches, remove the crumbs which will burn and turn the oil darker if left in fryer.
  11. Grate the daikon and squeeze the liquid out. Serve shrimp tempura with warm tempura sauce and grated daikon.
1. Make batter right before deep frying to avoid activation of wheat gluten.2. If you try to cook too many shrimp at once, the oil temperature will drop quickly. Make sure to maintain the right temperature for frying at all times.For vegetarian tempura: Batter and frying method are similar, but instead use vegetables such as sweet potato, eggplant, kabocha squash, lotus root, shiitake or king oyster mushrooms, etc. Instead of regular dashi, vegetarians can use kombu dashi.