Ebi fry is a popular dish made with succulent black tiger prawns coated in crunchy golden panko breadcrumbs and served with a mild, homemade Japanese style tartar sauce.
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What is Ebi Fry?
Ebi Fry is an iconic Japanese deep fried dish made with large shrimp coated in flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs. The coating is the same as tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet).
The history of Ebi Fry is uncertain but some theories go all the way back to early 20th century by creating a different version of tonkatsu or menchi-katsu (deep fried mince meat).
What kind of shrimp are used for ebi fry?
When we make ebi fry at home, we often use black tiger prawns or king prawns.
Restaurants tend to use bigger, even more expensive kinds of prawn.
When it comes to ebi fry, bigger is always better! Some restaurants use "Ise Ebi" fished from Ise Bay, Mie (close to Nagoya in central Japan). While the name in Japanese contains "ebi", it's actually known as "Japanese spiny lobster" in English and can grow up to 30cm in length! So if you see a giant ebi fry, it might be made from Ise ebi.
What is the difference between Ebi Fry and Shrimp Tempura?
Although ebi fry and shrimp tempura are both deep fried shrimps, the differences lie not only in the coating, but also the way they are served.
Ebi fry are coated in Japanese panko breadcrumbs which create a thick, crunchy and golden crust. They are often served with a thick sauce such as tartar sauce or miso sauce.
On the other hand, tempura shrimp are coated in a light batter made with flour, eggs and water. The batter is puffy and crispy, yet light. The colour is very pale compared to ebi fry and it's usually served with salt or a dashi based dipping sauce called "tentsuyu". You can check out my tempura shrimp recipe here.
Ebi Fry and Nagoya
Giant ebi fry is famous in Nagoya and up until recently, I've believed that it was a regional dish. However, it turns out that it's just a myth.
Apparently the myth started when people in Nagoya called this dish Ebi Fryaaa "えびふりゃー" on national TV. From then, it was believed that people from Nagoya always say "Ebi Fryaaa" and many people started to think this dish is from Nagoya.
Many restaurants in Nagoya took advantage of this belief and made it one of the city's specialties, serving large ebi fry with other regional specialities such as hatcho miso sauce (made from red miso) and kishimen (flat udon noodles).
FYI, people in Nagoya never really call it "えびふりゃー".
Japanese Tartar Sauce
Ebi fry is commonly served with tartar sauce, the perfect sauce for deep fried seafood dishes!
Japanese style tartar sauce is quite mild in taste and contains lots of eggs! It's creamy and delicious, it's easy to make from scratch too.
If you want to learn more info about Japanese tartar sauce then check out my post. The recipe is also below.
Tips and Tricks for Prepping Prawns for Ebi Fry
Prepping prawns can be time consuming and a bit of hassle, but proper preparation leads to successful ebi fry. Here are the steps I follow whenever I made any deep fried shrimp dish!
Defrost thoroughly if you use frozen shrimps
If you are using frozen prawns, defrost them completely under running water. Fresh prawns can be simply chilled in the fridge.
Remove shells and devein
Remove the shells by splitting the shell in the middle of the legs and pulling it clean off. For presentation purposes, we usually leave the tail on.
For deveining, cut down the back of the shrimp to reveal the vein. You can pull it out using the tip of the knife, a toothpick or something similar.
If you don't want to cut it, you can use a toothpick to pull it out from the top. (Although sometimes it snaps if you do this so be gentle.)
You only need two things to wash shrimps thoroughly.
Salt dehydrates the shrimp which improves the texture and starch absorbs the dirt.
Place the shrimp in a bowl with 1 tsp of corn starch and a few pinches of salt. Rub it all over the surface of the shrimp until completely covered and then rinse with water. This makes them super clean and they always taste better if you do this!
Cut the tails
There are 3 tails on a shrimp, two fins on the sides and a pointy one in the middle.
Place the shrimp on its side and with the tail folded in half and trim it diagonally. This prevents oil from splattering out when it’s frying.
Prevent curling by making incisions
To keep the prawns straight, it's important to break the muscles!
Place the prawns on a chopping board with the tail to the right and make incisions into the belly. We make 4 incisions across the whole body and it should be about ½ way through the prawn. Then you gently press the back of the shrimp to stretch the muscle.
This process prevents prawns from curling when they're frying.
Ebi fry is made by coating the shrimps with flour, egg and breadcrumbs like katsu (cutlet), while tempura is coated with a thin tempura batter which may or may not contain eggs. You can check out my shrimp tempura recipe here.
Ebi fry is typically made with large shrimp like black tiger prawns or king prawns.
Ebi (海老) is the Japanese word for shrimp and furai is "fry" as the dish is deep fried.
Ebi fry is very versatile. You can serve it on it's own as a starter or with rice, salad, in sushi, in burgers, there are so many ways to enjoy ebi fry!