Saturday, December 29, 2012

Complimenting the Snow with Tempura Okra

Christmastime has passed and I'm back to pay a little more attention to the archives of Louisville Lady Gourmet. I really hope that you, dear readers, had as much inspiration for culinary greatness as I did over the holiday. In my free time, I was combing the massive collections of recipes that were flooding from my fellow bloggers and food writers, and boy was I excited. I also reviewed some traditional methods that I want to perfect and keep in my culinary arsenal.

The New Year is on its way (can you believe it?), so that means making new goals and trying new least for me. I really want to investigate a few styles of cuisine that I have experienced or even cooked before, but want to see what I can do with the ingredients we have here in our fair city.

I got started early on my goals by tackling Tempura. I believe that anyone who tries tempura is truly amazed at what the Japanese have done to fried food. Tempura, if prepared correctly, is minimal on the grease, texturally exciting, packs massive taste from both the batter and the fresh ingredients, and is completely addictive. Oh yes, addictive.

So, what can you tempura fry that excites the Louisville palate? Only one of my most favorite foods in the entire world: Okra! I fried the okra whole, and doing so yielded an ethereal taste-bud explosion. The whole okra was beautifully crispy on the outside and was not soggy at all in the center. The okra seeds in the middle have always been my favorite to eat, and this tempura okra kept the seeds moist for optimum popping.

For seasoning, I simply went for salt and chili powder to give it a little kick. I felt like a tempura dipping sauce would have been a little much...and might not allow the integrity of the okra to shine through. Being the first time trying it, I wanted to get the full effect. I think that a lighter sauce, perhaps with a citrus base instead of soy base would go well with these. Honestly, I was satisfied just popping them in my mouth until they were all gone.

Let's get on with the tempura technique. I think that the tutorial by Chef Tadashi Ono via Saveur is spot on. I'll outline what I did here and you can check out the video and tutorial on Saveur from there!

Tempura Okra
2 1/2 C Cake flour
2 Egg yolks
2 C Ice water
1/4 C Crushed ice cubes
Fresh Okra

Dredging in cake flour first
This recipe can be used for any vegetable, herb, or meat that you want to cover in a perfect tempura batter. If you are going for meat, shrimp is the most popular and delectable. Vegetables should be in uniform shapes, you can even tempura herbs--my favorite is tempura's like eating bright, flavorful lace. Make sure that everything is prepared before you even start on the batter. That means whatever you are frying needs to be washed, dried, and brought to room temperature. This will maximize crunchiness.

Heat a cast iron skillet with about an inch of canola or vegetable oil to 360º add 1/4 C sesame oil before you start frying for that authentic tempura flavor. Plus, it smells awesome! If you don't have a thermometer, check the temperature with the batter. The batter should bead and immediately rise and bubble to the top.

Put 1/2 C cake flour on a plate to dredge the okra in first. This step will help the tempura batter adhere to the okra. You can dredge them before your prepare the tempura batter to ensure that the batter is fresh. When the flour from dredging and the batter meet, you get that quintessential tempura batter with crispy bits intact!

Tempura batter mixing with 4 chopsticks
Now for the magical batter.
Place two egg yolks in a large bowl. Using two chopsticks mix the yolks with 2C ice water, ice included. This reduces gluten absorption. Then grasp four chopsticks and hold upright so that they make a square in the bowl. Do not use a whisk, do not use a fork, just take the chopsticks without fear (and a little practice), and gently incorporate the flour with the egg-water mixture. Your batter should be lumpy because those flour bubbles are gold. The batter will reach the consistency of heavy cream. At this point your oil should be hot and your okra should be dredged and ready for action!

Leave room for even frying!
Using just two chopsticks now, pick up the dredged okra one piece at a time and swipe it through the batter and directly into the hot oil. Do this quickly until you have filled up the pan about 3/4 full. The okra needs to have enough room to cook evenly and not stick to itself. Make sure that they have room. Gently stir and take your chopsticks to drop more batter on top of the okra pieces. If you have some pieces left over, you can strain those out and serve them as a bed for the tempura or reserve them for toppings on salads. After about 2-3 minutes they should be fried. The color should be just turning to golden...not brown, not white as the batter, but just thinking about turning. Then quickly remove the okra and put them on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Drain on towels
Fry in batches until you are all out of okra. Remember to sprinkle with seasoning while hot. Then immediately consume with joy and happiness knowing that you can take techniques from across the world and transform our ingredients here at home. Stay curious and stay hungry!

Final product! Eat away!

1 comment:

  1. The first day I had Okra was in Badajoz. We went to a ecological Market at el Circulo de Badajoz. It was amazing! The guy was from la Codosera, and he even gave us a card to visit his garden! We had it with mom at home, and I fall in love with this vegetable!

    This year, I spent Christmas with the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and we went to buy Christmas dinner to Kruger! The biggest surprise was Okra! We had to buy it! and that was the result! Incredible tapas to go with wine while we were preparing dinner together, sharing tasks and activities of chopping, cleaning,...

    For me, Okra is a special meal

    <3 <3 <3 <3