Three Quick Steps to Delicious and Versatile Tempura Broccoli

In this recipe I share with you three steps that will take your tempura broccoli from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Now, ordinarily tempura broccoli is absolutely delicious – so imagine how good extraordinary tempura broccoli is going to be!

Primarily, tempura broccoli is eaten as part of an Asian inspired meal but this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, the last time I enjoyed these delicious treats they were served alongside pan-seared calves liver in rosemary butter. Tempura broccoli is versatile enough that it doesn’t have to be reserved for one particular style of dish. They can, for example, be served with any meal that includes roasted or sauteed potatoes.

To prepare the tempura batter mix

To make the batter you only need three ingredients: cornflour, plain four and (very) chilled sparkling water. You can add a little salt too, if you like.

It is possible to buy flour advertised as especially for tempura and you might want to go with this option for convenience. However, the only reason, I can think of, for choosing this option over making your own is that you have no flour or cornflour at home and only intend to make this one tempura dish. If you have no cornflour at home, you can, if working on the fly, just use sifted plain flour if that is all you have. The best thing, though, is to mix two parts cornflour with one part sifted plain flour.

For the liquid, you need chilled sparkling water. The brand doesn’t really matter, I normally use Highland Spring but most other kinds will do. The only one I wouldn’t recommend is the Italian San Pellegrino sparkling water because it is very lightly carbonated. More important than the brand of the water is the temperature of the water.

Now, I have experimented with room temperature sparkling water (because I forgot to put it in the fridge, not because I’m some kind of mad food scientist) and can assure you that chilling does make a real difference. In fact, I now take my water out of the fridge and transfer it to the freezer twenty minutes before using it. Some people add crushed ice to the mix when preparing their tempura batters, however, I do not think this is necessary. If you make sure your sparkling water is as cold as possible without freezing it then you’ll be fine.

This is the first step to delicious tempura broccoli: Use very chilled sparkling water.

Putting the batter together is very simple. Just mix the flours together and whisk in the sparkling water. The water is fizzy and will foam up so take this into account! Don’t expect an explosive reaction – you’re not adding Coke to Mentos – but the mix will fizz up a little bit so err on the side of choosing a larger rather than smaller mixing bowl.

Tempura batter is best used straight away. Unlike regular batter that you might use on cod for a classic fish and chip supper, tempura batter cannot be stored in the fridge. For best results, use the batter as soon as it is ready.

This is the second step to delicious tempura broccoli: Use the batter as soon as it is ready.

Now that our batter is ready we need something to coat it with. This time it is broccoli but the same batter can be used to coat many different delicious things. Experiment with:

  • Slices of bell pepper
  • Sweet potato
  • Aubergine (eggplant)
  • Courgette
  • Prawns
  • Squid
  • Oysters (I use tinned smoked oysters)

However, today we are interested in one ingredient: broccoli.

I don’t what it is about broccoli but when served in and light a crispy tempura batter everyone goes crazy. They love it! Even those who swear blind that they hate broccoli, can’t stand the stuff, would have to be forced to eat it at gunpoint, etc., change their tune after trying tempura broccoli. The other ingredients listed above go down well, people like them, but rarely do you get the whole table raving about them. Every time I put on a big home-cooked Asian inspired meal, I always make sure to prepare twice as much broccoli as I do any other dish. Put some of these out and expect to run out fast!

For the broccoli itself you can choose either the regular stuff of the sprouting variety. The broccoli will not be blanched before deep frying and so to make sure it doesn’t taste raw make sure to seperate off smallish florets before battering. The ideal size for your tempura broccoli is small enough to be eaten in one bite but not so small that someone could easily eat two at a time. Now for the most important step…

For the best results – and if you skip this step you will definitely notice the difference – you need to completely dry the outside of the broccoli florets. Just using a kitchen towel will not be enough. In addition, we don’t want to be too rough with the florets and knock all the leaves off. To get the results you’re after, you’ll need to bring out the big guns. And, in this case, the big guns are your hairdryer. That’s right, you’re going to plug in your hairdryer and give your florets a good blast. When you’ve finished, they should be completely dry to the touch.

It’s best to lay your florets on some kitchen towel in a large dish with relatively tall sides. I use a huge pyrex thing I normally cook big family-size lasagne’s in. Small broccoli florets are quite light and will fly around the kitchen under the blast of your hairdryer. Use the gentlest setting and experiment with your angles (directly over the florets is best) and the sides of the dish will thwart any escape attempts.

This is the third step to delicious tempura broccoli: Completely dry the surface of your broccoli.

In reality, you don’t want your freshly made tempura batter sitting on the side losing its freshness while you blow-dry your broccoli. It’s best to prepare your broccoli (or whatever you’re going to be cooking) before you put together your batter mix.

Cooking your delicious tempura broccoli

Obviously, you are going to be deep-frying your tempura broccoli and there really aren’t any secrets here. Simply bring your oil up to temperature, 180℃ or when a cube of bread turns crisp and brown after 30 seconds), and carefully add the battered broccoli. For the bite-sized pieces I recommend, they should be done in about 2mins. When they are a crisp, light golden-brown they are ready to come out. Drain on some kitchen towel, a wire rack or scrunched up tin foil.

They will be hot but serve as soon as possible. Below, I have included three dips I like to serve if we’re having the tempura broccoli as a starter or snack. Of course, you can dip your tempura into anything you like: sweet chilly, sweet and sour sauce, hoi-sin, even if you’re a certain friend of mine tomato ketchup!

  • Soy and ginger. Mix together a Tablespoon of light soy sauce with a pea-sized ball of ginger paste.
  • Soy and Sriracha. As above, replace the ginger with sriracha.
  • Soy and black vinegar. You’ll need to go to a specialist store to buy the Chinese black vinegar but it is worth it. It’s a little but of an acquired taste but well worth it once acquired