Shrimp is the king of all tempura! Whether you're enjoying it with noodles, on donburi or on its own, shrimp tempura never dissapoints. Learn how to make perfect, light and crispy Japanese style "Ebi Ten" with my tips and tricks!
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Shrimp tempura is a well loved dish worldwide. Juicy shrimps coated in a light and crispy batter, what's not to like? In Japanese, the word for shrimp is ebi (海老) so we call the dish "ebi no tempura" or "ebi ten" (海老天) for short!
Ebi ten can be served on its own, but it's also common to serve it on or with other dishes such as udon soup (kake udon), tempura soba, tendon (tempura rice bowl) or even in onigiri rice balls (tenmusu)!
If you can master shrimp tempura, it opens up a whole world of other Japanese dishes you can incorporate it into!
What is Tempura?
Tempura is a classic Japanese dish with a long history. It's typically made with seafood and vegetables that are coated in a simple batter made from flour, egg and water. It's then deep fried for a short time, tempura should be light in colour and texture.
While tempura is known around the world as a Japanese dish, the method of frying tempura was actually introduced to Japan by Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. We've literally been enjoying tempura for hundreds of years!
Types of shrimp/prawns to use
There are three main types of prawns used for tempura.
- Japanese tiger prawn (Kuruma ebi)
- Black tiger prawn (Giant tiger prawn)
- Whiteleg shrimp
Japanese tiger prawn (Kuruma ebi)
This specific type of prawn is more expensive than the other two. The main characteristics are its great texture and unique sweetness.
They are often used in fancy tempura restaurants.
Black tiger prawn (Giant tiger prawn)
The shrimp is used in a variety of Japanese dishes such as sushi and ebi-fry. It is also similar to the kuruma ebi above in its thickness and firmness.
If you do tempura at home, it is probably the best of the three in terms of price, taste and texture.
White leg shrimp is also a common type of shrimp to see in supermarkets. They are cheaper than black tiger prawns, but the thickness and texture are not as good.
In conclusion, I recommend black tiger prawn for tempura.
Prepping prawns can be very annoying but proper preparation leads to successful tempura shrimp. So here are my tips for preparing the prawns!
Defrost thoroughly if you use frozen shrimps
If you are using frozen prawns, defrost them completely under running water. Non-frozen 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 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 your fingers.
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.)
Only two things are needed to wash shrimps properly
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.
To keep the prawns straight, it's important to break off the muscle!
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.
Dry and put them in fridge
Once you've followed the tips above, rinse them in cold water and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Put them in the fridge until just before battering.
Keeping the ingredients cold is key for tempura in general as well.
Tips for making tempura batter
Making tempura batter from scratch is simple to make yet difficult to perfect. Here are a few tips that I think are vital to making successful tempura batter:
- Sift the flour
- Use ice cold water
- Mix starch with the flour (Potato starch or corn starch)
- Use sparkling water (or lager beer even)
- Do not over mix (Leaving lumps is actually better than smooth batter)
All of these processes are explained in this recipe and if you want to know more information as to why we do these things, please refer to my authentic tempura batter recipe with secret tips.
Don't get me wrong, I still prefer using egg to make tempura batter. However, using mayonnaise is a great alternative when you want to make small batch. (Measuring ½ or ¼ of an egg is such a pain, but you can do this if you prefer.)
The general usage ratio of mayonnaise is, 1 egg = 1 tbsp mayonnaise.
It is not gonna have any mayonnaise-like flavour but please note that this only works with mayonnaise contains egg. I always use Kewpie mayonnaise.
Tips and tricks to make amazing shrimp tempura at home
To make good shrimp tempura at home, it is not only important to know tips to make tempura in general but also processes to make shrimp tempura specifically.
So here are my tips and tricks for making shrimp tempura!
Flouring before battering
One of the saddest mistakes in tempura is when the batter comes off.
To avoid this, dry the shrimp with a paper towel and then dust them with flour before battering. That way, the flour will act as an adhesive between the shrimp and the batter.
Ideal time to cook
The general frying time for prawn tempura is around 2 minutes at an oil temperature of 180-190°C (approx 355-375°F). The key is to fry it quickly at a high temperature.
However, there are roughly 3 points to look at to know when you should take the shrimps out of oil.
- Colour: the surface of the batter should be a lightly golden, not dark.
- Sound: the batter will make a loud crackling sound when it is first placed in the oil, but towards the end, the sound will become "high-pitched" and the foam will become smaller.
- Float: When the prawn is ready to be removed from the oil, they rise to the surface and float.
Don't overcrowd the pot
If you put too many shrimps in a pan at the same time, the oil temperature will become too low and the tempura will not be crispy.
The key to crispy tempura is to keep the temperature of the oil high so make sure to only fry a few shrimp at a time. If you fry tempura in small batches, you are more likely to have successful tempura. (This also stops them sticking together.)
Recipes to enjoy with Shrimp Tempura
Shrimp tempura can be enjoyed in many other dishes. Check out some of my other recipes that go well with shrimp tempura!
- Kake Udon (udon soup)
- Tempura Soba (soba noodles topped with tempura)
- Zaru Udon (chilled udon noodles with dipping sauce)