Japan Eats

Recipe: Basil no tempura (basil tempura)

Dried shrimp and basil in a delicate tempura batter.

Basil works remarkably well in tempura. Here, the herb is combined with a handful of dried shrimp which adds some weight as well as texture to the dish.

When you mix the basil, tempura powder and ice water, be careful not to mix them for too long. There should still be pockets of dry powder in the mixture. In order to prevent the leaves from separating in the oil, hold the ingredients with the chopsticks until the outside of the ingredients become solid for 10 seconds.

As soon as you find the tempura are crispy, take them out of the oil. Deep frying for too long will kill the aroma of the basil.

This dish pairs well with a dry white wine like chardonnay or a sake such as Tateyama Junmai Ginjo.

Basil tempura.

Basil tempura.

Ingredients (for 2 people)

  • 25 g of fresh basil (leaves and buds)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of sakuraebi (dried shrimp)
  • 3 – 3.5 tablespoons of tempura powder
  • 2 tablespoons of ice water


Wash the basil leaves, shake off any water and place them in a bowl. Add the dried shrimp.

Gently sprinkle the tempura powder over the ingredients and add ice water. Mix  roughly so that the ingredients will hold together in the cooking oil.

Place a deep-frying dish containing 2 – 3 cm vegetable oil on a medium high gas and heat it to 170℃.

Next, separate the tempura ingredients into 5 – 6 portions. Deep-fry one side of each portion for about a minute. Once the ingredients become crispy, turn over and deep-fry for a further 30 seconds.

Remove the tempura from the oil and place on a paper towel so any oil drains away.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt and serve.

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.