I have a small kitchen, and the cupboards are already filled with things I can’t live without. I’m not saying I’m a gadget queen, but if you touch my KitchenAid attachments, you’re dead. And I may or may not have a specialized breakfast sandwich maker.
I pretend to take my time before adding a bulky item to my collection. For years I resisted buying a deep fryer. I put it in my Amazon shopping cart at least a dozen times before it made it through checkout. I asked myself, “Do I really need one?” I think I knew what I was really scared of: that I would be deep-frying everything in sight.
Well, I was right, but I shouldn’t have been scared. I am deep-frying everything in sight. And it’s wonderful. A deep fryer can make Brussels sprouts taste like french fries.
Maybe owning a deep fryer comes with a bit of denial. I once heard a radio interview with the chef who invented the deep-fried cheesecake. He actually said, “It’s not very fattening — you just drain it on some paper towels …”
But the main problem is that once you fill your fryer with a gallon of cooking fat, you think, “Well, now I’ve gotta use it.” Frying up dinner, dessert and then breakfast makes you feel a little better about discarding the leftover oil.
The food I probably enjoy making most is tempura. It’s not hard but it does take time, and tempura is best eaten immediately. Kakiage is the easiest form of tempura to execute and can be used with a combination of veggies you happen to have in your fridge. You can make a big chunk at once and don’t have to dip each veggie or fry in batches.
Though I don’t speak Japanese, I believe kakiage roughly translates to “the extreme lazy way to make tempura with maximum fat.” Because once you have your veggies cut, you mix them all into the batter and then just place the whole thing into the hot oil. Veggies are julienned, meaning there’s maximum surface to cover in crisp-fried goodness.
Get out your paper towels. You’ll need at least three of them to dab that fat away.
3 cups peeled, julienned mixed veggies (such as zucchini, carrot, onion and sweet potato)
Oil for frying, at least 3 inches deep
1 cup flour
1 cup club soda (or water in a pinch)
For serving: Salt, tempura dipping sauce, or mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha
Toss veggies in a bowl. In deep fryer, heat oil to 360 degrees. Or use a small, heavy-bottomed metal saucepan and fill with at least 3 inches oil.
In large bowl, crack egg and stir with chopsticks. Add flour, ice cubes and club soda, and mix it until just combined — don’t over-stir or try to get out every lump. Club soda and light stirring keep the batter light.
Stir veggies into batter. When oil is ready, use slotted spoon to gather about 3/4 cup of mixture and add quickly to fryer. You want to do it quickly enough to keep the cake of veggies together, but take care not to splash oil.
Fry until golden, about 3 minutes, flipping it halfway. It should be light in color but with a slight yellow tinge.
Drain on paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with rest of batter mixture. Serve immediately sprinkled with salt or other desired condiment. Makes 4 to 5 tempura cakes.
Approximate nutritional information (based on 5 tempura cakes and not including salt to taste or sauces): 250 calories, 15 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 5 g protein
Mariko Jackson blogs about family and food at thelittlefoodie.com.