In Japanese cuisine, tempura is a delicate dish of breaded seafood or vegetables. The light, crispy coating on the food gives it a distinct flavor that is hard to resist. Tempura is often served as an appetizer or side dish.
Although it has a Japanese name and has been enjoyed in this country for centuries, tempura actually has European origins. Food historians say tempura dates back to the influence of Portuguese merchants and missionaries who arrived in Japan in the 16th century.
Almost anything can be added to a tempura batter. However, in this “Fruit Tomato Tempura” recipe by Takashi Sugimoto and Marcia Iwatate “Shunju New Japanese Cuisine” (Tuttle), a sweet variety of tomato known as fruit tomato is used. The fruit tomato is a recently developed tomato hybrid that has a reduced water content and a high level of sweetness. The fruit tomato is smaller and firmer than most tomatoes. Overcooking fruit tomatoes will increase their acidity, so they should be fried quickly.
- 2 eggs
- 1⁄2 cup ice water
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted and chilled
- 12 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn (plus extra whole for garnish)
- Vegetable oil
- 4 fruit tomatoes, replace with small firm vine-ripened tomatoes
- 1⁄3 cup fresh cream
- 11⁄3 ounces hard cheese, such as Gouda
- 1⁄3 ounce blue cheese such as Roquefort (use white part only)
- 4 pinches of natural sea salt
1. Beat the eggs and ice water in a bowl, then add the flour and the chopped basil. Stir briefly with thick chopsticks. Do not stir to a smooth batter as the tempura batter should always contain chunks of flour.
2. Pour vegetable oil into a pan until it is 6 inches deep. Heat to 374 F.
3. Dip a whole, unpeeled tomato in the batter and fry for 11⁄2 minutes; overcooking the tomato makes it acidic. Be sure to maintain the oil temperature at 374 F. Remove the tomato with a slotted spoon and drain on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes.
4. Melt the cream and the two kinds of cheese in the microwave or over low heat. Season with natural sea salt. Spread the cheese cream sauce on a plate, place the fried tomato in the middle and decorate with whole basil leaves.