Japan Eats

Recipe: Kabocha (pumpkin) tempura

Pumpkin tempura: no small fry

Tempura is a deceptively simple dish. After all, it’s just seafood or vegetables coated in batter and deep fried. How could you go wrong?

The answer turns out to be ‘rather easily’. Make the batter too thick and result is a moist, gluey texture worlds apart from tempura’s signature crispiness. Make the batter too thin and you needn’t have bothered with it in the first place. Then there’s the oil. If the temperature’s too high, it burns. Not hot enough, you’re eating oil slick.

Kabocha tempura

Kabocha tempura

The basic idea for preparing batter is 1:1 (powder:water). To ensure your tempura has the right crispy texture, add a little baking powder or corn starch to the batter. It’s also important to use cold water, and that you mix your batter roughly. Adding an egg gives the tempura a nice color, but be sure to only use the yolk so as to retain the batter’s crispiness.

A final word of advice: eat the tempura as soon as it is served. Even perfectly cooked, this is a dish that won’t keep long.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 150 g pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup of wheat four (sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon of corn starch
  • 3/4 cup of cold water


Remove the pumpkin’s seeds and slice into 1 cm pieces.

Mix 3/4 of a cup of wheat flour and a teaspoon of corn starch with 3/4 of a cup of cold water (refrigerate the water beforehand or add ice cubes to room temperature water). Mix roughly.

Place a deep-fry dish with roughly 5 cm of vegetable oil on a medium heat so that the oil reaches 160 degrees Celsius.

If you drop a little batter into the oil, it should sink to the bottom of the dish and then quickly float up to the surface.

Put the sliced pumpkin into the batter cover both sides.

Deep fry each piece of pumpkin for 1 – 2 minutes. Prod each piece of pumpkin with chopsticks to check the batter feels crispy. Turn each piece over so that both sides are cooked evenly.

Remove the pumpkin from the oil and place on a draining tray.

Sprinkle 2 – 3 pinches of the salt over the tempura and serve.

Recipe: Japchae

Japchae is a popular Korean dish which mixes stir-fried cellophane noodles with beef and vegetables.

In Japan, cellophane noodles are referred to as harusame (literally “spring rain.”) Made from either green beans or sweet potato, they are commonly used in deep fried spring rolls, salads, or as an ingredient in Chinese style soup dishes.

To make japchae, you don’t need to have all the ingredients, but a combination of beef, onion, carrot, cucumber and shiitake mushrooms works best. You may also experiment by adding your own favorite vegetables (I sometimes add zucchini).



Ingredients (serves four)

  • 80 g harusame noodles
  • 50 g onion
  • 50 g carrot
  • 100 g cucumber
  • 50 g shiitake mushrooms
  • 50 g green pepper
  • 50 g red pepper
  • 50 g sliced beef
  • 100 g spinach


  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sake
  • 1 tablespoon of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of finely minced green onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of ground sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of grated garlic
  • 1-2 pinches of pepper


  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of grounded sesame seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce


Cut the sliced beef into thin strips. Next, cut away the shiitake stems and slice them into thin strips.

Mix the ingredients of the marinade and marinate the beef and shiitake mushrooms for 20-30 minutes.

Place a pot with water on a high heat. When it comes to the boil, cook the spinach for 30 seconds, then place it into a bowl of cold water. Squeeze the spinach and remove any liquid. Cut into strips 3cm in length.

Next, slide the cucumber into thin strips and place these into a bowl together with a pinch of salt and mix. When they have become soft, remove the moisture.

Cut the carrot, green and red pepper into thin strips. Now slice the onion thinly in the direction of the grain.

Place a pot with water on a high heat. Once it has come to the boil, cook the harusame one minute short of the directions on the package. Once the harusame is cooked, drain the hot water and cut them roughly into bite sized pieces. Place the noodles into a bowl, mix with the sauce and allow them to cool.

Pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a pan and stir-fry the onion, carrot, green pepper, red pepper and cucumber together with 2-3 pinches of salt and pepper. Now pour into the bowl of harusame.

Using the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and stir-fry the marinated beef and shiitake mushrooms with the sauce and then pour these ingredients into the bowl of harusame.

Finally, mix all the ingredients. Serve with ground sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

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