Originally printed on Thursday, May 24, 2012.

Editor’s Note: Maggie has made a few revisions to this column since its original publication. Please click here to see the updates and make sure your shrimp tempura comes out perfectly!

My mama used to make the best tempura. I have yet to equal hers at any restaurant. May I share a few “tricks” she taught me?

l. The secret of good tempura is the OIL. It must be poured straight from the new (unused) bottle into the frying pan. Use an electric frying pan, if possible, rather than a conventional top-of-the-stove frying pan because the temperature will stay more even.

2. To prepare the shrimp, ALWAYS use JUMBO shrimps (prawns). Allow at least three shrimps per person. Turn the shrimp on its side and slide a paring knife in between the BACK side of the shrimp to the tip of the “two prongs” but be careful that the shrimp stays in ONE piece. (Picture butterfly wings). There will be two flat sides. Take a knife and gently crisscross both sides (as you do before baking a ham butt). Remove black material from the shrimp but do NOT rinse the shrimp.

3. Mix one cup of water, one cup of flour and one egg to the consistency of pancake batter.

4. Set the temperature on the electric frying pan at 350 degrees and when the oil sizzles, quickly take one shrimp, dip it in the batter and toss it in the frying pan.

5. Toss only three shrimps at one time and do NOT add any more because when adding more, the temperature will cool.

6. You can tell when the shrimp is done on one side because it will turn a golden brown. Then turn it over until golden brown on that side and place on a plate with a paper towel. (The paper towel absorbs the extra oil).  It takes only a few seconds to “tempura” the shrimp, so you must work quickly.

For vegetable tempura, I use yam or sweet potatoes, string beans and eggplant. Of course, most vegetables may be used, such as broccoli and carrots.

In order to save time, I have an ordinary frying pan to “tempura” the vegetables. I place two of each of the above-mentioned vegetables into the hot oil and then go back to “tempura” the rest of the shrimps.

Remember when making tempura, one has to be fast and careful.


For the sauce, pour a mixture of ketchup and shoyu sauce in a small pot and place on top of the stove at low heat and stir until mixture turns a reddish brown. Shred daikon (Japanese turnip) to make daikon oroshi and pour the sauce and oroshi into a small pitcher. Everyone can then pour and/or use as much sauce as they desire for the tempura. (Do this just before serving dinner.)

I cut tofu from the block of tofu into small squares, sprinkle chopped parsley and chopped green onions on top of the tofu, and place it on one side of a large platter with rakkyo and takuwan on the other side. The tofu and rakkyo/takuwan are served as a side dish.

I save the rakkyo liquid in the bottle and use it with a touch of curry powder, shaking it well and pouring it over a green salad consisting of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and celery.

Of course, you must have rice.

NOTE: If you have BROWN rice instead of WHITE rice, the rice MUST be washed thoroughly until the water in the pot is crystal clear and soaked for at least two hours before cooking.

It takes longer to cook BROWN rice and it will boil over TWICE.

At the first boil-over, reduce heat. After the second boil-over, stir rice evenly, cover pot and wait until rice is cooked. It will look somewhat puffed, the same appearance as white rice.

If you don’t know how to cook WHITE rice by now, shame on you!

For dessert, I serve Jello or ice cream and fortune cookies.

PLEASE NOTE: JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT,  I will “meow” any comments, problems, questions you may have. Please mail letters to me in care of The Rafu Shimpo, 701 E. Third St., Suite 130, Los Angeles,  CA 90013. I will answer SELECT letters in my column.

Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached at Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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