Diagonal thin slices of Japanese eggplant, coated in Panko breadcrumbs dived into the searing hot oil in the hot wok. The batter clung tight around the sliced vegetables. Once the eggplants dropped into the pan, the spirally spheres blossomed bigger, the color turning from a purple to a light golden brown. The aroma of pan seared vegetables on the outdoor grill’s open flame clearly drove the neighbors insane. I could sense it. But no one was invited. I was having this eggplant tempura all to myself tonight.
What do Filipinos do on a hot, scorching summer day? We deal with it by deep-frying food till the crisp slices threaten to fall off when gingerly touched. I’m talking about crunchy, indulgent Japanese eggplants cooked tempura style. I made some on this hot sticky summer day. It’s the kind of meal that cooks quickly. So I deep-fried these eggplant slices on our outdoor grill’s open burner for supper.
Tempura is a Japanese meal which is is almost like most Filipino food. Typically, a tempura platter consists of crunchy shrimps and vegetables, served with a dipping soy sauce thickened with a broth and grated radish, and accompanied by a bowl of steamed jasmine white rice.
For this 100-degree day, I served an all-eggplant tempura meal. It was light and easy, yet the crackle from the deep-fried slices gave us the much-needed hearty fullness.
So this is why on an unrelenting, hot summer day, Filipinos know how to cope. We make terrific eggplant tempura, the Filipino-food way and savor the slowness of the summer. Yes, we can take the heat any day because we’re used to hot weather. Just like we’re used to a good tempura meal. Give us the crunch, and give us the heat and we’ll take it all in!
Japanese Eggplant Tempura with Dipping Soy Sauce
- large wok
- Deep Fry Thermometer
- 4 to 5 whole Asian eggplants thinly sliced, diagonal; from Asian markets; or use regular aubergines sliced in 2-inch length pieces
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil for deep-frying
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 whole egg chilled
- 3/4 cup ice cold water
- 1/3 cup + 1/2 teaspoon Hondashi dashi stock from Asian markets
- 3 Tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons sake
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon grated daikon radish liquid squeezed off
- steamed jasmine white rice for serving
- Wash the eggplants and dry with a paper towel. Cut diagonally in thin slices, measuring about 2-inches per slice. The eggplants cook quicker when slices are thin. Also, cut them up while the oil is heating up. The eggplants’ inner flesh tends to darken if left open for too long.Preheat the vegetable oil in the large wok over high heat. If you have a deep-fry thermometer the ideal temperature for the oil in this recipe is 170 C. Or if you dip wooden chopsticks in the oil and you see small bubbles around it, then the oil is ready for frying. *Note: Do not deep-fry if oil is burnt. This affects the tempura's flavor.
- Mix the tempura batter ingredients in a bowl : Flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, egg and ice water. Batter should be a bit lumpy. *Note: Use ice cold water and a chilled egg
- Dip the eggplant slices into the batter. Then roll it in a bowl of Panko bread crumbs. Drop them a little at a time into the hot wok with oil. Pan fry for 2 to 3 minutes per eggplant slice. Drain the cooked slices on a paper towel or parchment paper to remove excess oil.
- Separately,mix in a small bowl the dipping sauce. Blend together the dashi stock, soy sauce, sake, sugar. Pour this in a small saucepan and over medium high heat, boil the ingredients. The sauce will boil in about five minutes. Turn off the heat. Pour this over the grated daikon radish in a small bowl. Serve together with the sizzling crisp eggplant tempura and a large serving of steamed jasmine white rice.
- COOK’S COMMENTS: Nami’s deep-fying suggestion : “ You want to bring the oil to 170C( 338F). Check the temperature with a thermometer. Or if you dip chopsticks in the oil, you will see small bubbles around it. It’s ready for deep frying.”
Nutrition Notes: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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