Ebi tempura is always a crowd pleaser. Who can resist the deep fried, light, airy coating around a succulent, perfectly prepared piece of shrimp? This is the easy way to make restaurant style tempura with the signature flaky, bubbly batter, at home!
For many, Ebi Tempura (Shrimp Tempura) is their introduction to Japanese cuisine. The ever so popular dish is a staple at almost every Japanese restaurant. It is often served with noodles, rice, or even as part of sushi rolls. I love it as an appetizer with a side of tempura dipping sauce.
Although shrimp is the star of the show when it comes to tempura, the supporting cast has a lot to offer too. A side of tempura vegetables will contain a wide array of great items. Asparagus, eggplant, onions, broccoli, carrots, just to name a few, are common tempura vegetable items.
You can use any type of shrimp for Ebi Tempura. The shrimp needs to be uncooked, precooked (pink in color) will not work. I buy bags of frozen shrimp from Costco. They come tail-on, deveined and with the shell removed. Perfect for Ebi Tempura.
Technically, any size shrimp would work. I prefer a slightly larger shrimp, something around the size of 21/24. A little bigger or smaller will work, just try not to go too much smaller. As you get smaller, your batter to shrimp ratio becomes disproportional.
NOTE: Shrimp sizing is an important aspect of buying and shrimp. Shrimp are typically sold by the pound, and the number of shrimp in a pound is used to determine their size. This is known as the shrimp count. The smaller the number, the larger the individual shrimp will be. For example, jumbo shrimp will be sold as 8 to 12 per pound (sometimes written as 8/12 or 8-12), while smaller shrimp might be sold as 41 to 50 (41/50 or 41-50) per pound.
How Do I Prepare the Shrimp for Ebi Tempura?
Preparation is one of the key steps to making great ebi tempura. The shrimp should have the shell removed, cleaned, pat dry and straighten. Shrimp is readily available without the shell. For ebi tempura, having the tail on is a plus. Not only does it create a beautiful end product, it is tasty too. Yes it is edible, and one of my favorite parts.
Clean the shrimp with a rinse under cold water. If it has not been deveined, you can remove it by cutting a small slit right on top of the vein, then rinse it off. To clean the tail, first locate the tiny triangle piece in the middle of the tail. Break it off with your fingers and discard. Cut off the tip of the tail. Using a knife, scrape the tail to remove some of the liquid that is in the tail. It might not seem like a lot of liquid but this step will help reduce a lot of splatter when frying.
To straighten the shrimp, start by making 4 slits on the bottom side of the shrimp about half way through. Then flip it over and lay it down right side up. Using your index fingers, gently press into the cut where it was deveined. You should hear and feel popping as you press. Use your thumb and middle finger keep it place while you move up and down the shrimp. It should now be straight and about 1.5x longer.
How to Make Tempura Batter
In order to achieve the signature light and flaky texture, we want to minimize how much gluten is formed. Gluten is what makes bread chewy, the exact opposite of what we want here. We want to minimize the amount of gluten that is developed in the batter. Here are 3 steps to achieving this.
- Use a low protein flour. For this recipe, I use all purpose flour. If you have cake flour or wheat flour, those contain less protein which will give you even better results.
- Use ice cold water. The colder the better. Using cold water reduces the amount of gluten that is formed.
- Don’t over mix. Using a whisk or pair a chopsticks, lightly stir the batter until the dry ingredients have combined with the water. Leaving some lumps are okay. You don’t need to mix it until everything is completely dissolved. The more you mix, the more gluten is formed. Lightly mix then stop.
Best Technique for Frying Ebi Tempura
What makes tempura so unique is not only the light batter; it is the shape of it too. The puffy, irregular texture makes each bite different. There are many ways to obtain the unique tempura texture. I find this method to be the easiest.
Hold a shrimp by the tail and dip it in the batter. Allow the excess to drip off for 1-2 seconds, then carefully lower it into the hot oil. The shrimp should immediately float to the top of the oil. Using a spoon, carefully spoon some batter in a random pattern across the length of the ebi. A lot of the batter will bubble and float in the oil, some should stick to the ebi and begin to form a bubbly crust. Repeat 2-3 times until the shrimp has a beautiful crust. Allow it to turn brown, then remove it from the oil. Place it on a wire rack or strainer and allow any excess oil to drip off before serving.
Ebi Tempura is best when served hot. As it sits, the batter will lose its crispy texture. Dip it in some homemade tempura sauce or a drizzle of spicy mayo for an appetizer that will earn you rave reviews. On tempura days at our house, we can be found congregating around the stove eating crispy, crunchy tempura fresh out of the hot oil.
- 20-25 shrimp, peeled with tail-on and deveined
- 1 cup flour, all-purpose, wheat or cake flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup ice cold water
Prepare the Ebi
- Butterfly the shrimp by using a sharp knife and lightly scoring the back of the shrimp.
- Make 4-5 slits on the under side of the shrimp about halfway through.
- Place the shrimp right side up and press onto the shrimp with your index fingers. Use your thumbs and middle finger to hold it in place as you press. You should hear popping sounds as the shrimp straightens out. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
Make the Tempura Batter
- In a small bowl, add the egg and the ice cold water. Whisk until the egg is well incorporated.
- In another bowl, add the flour and corn starch. Pour in the egg/water mixture.
- Using a whisk or a pair of chopsticks, gently mix until the dry ingredients are mixed in with the egg/water mixture. Don't over mix, leaving some lumps are fine. Having some lumps is better that over mixing it.
Fry Ebi Tempura
- Heat some oil in a pot over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 350° F. You can shallow fry or deep fry tempura, whichever you prefer. When shallow frying, you will need about 1.5"-2" of oil. I like using cast iron or a Dutch oven when frying. The material helps maintain the oil temperature as you add ingredients.
- Lightly dust the shrimp with flour.
- Dip the flour dusted shrimp one by one into the batter, allow the excess to drip off for 1-2 seconds, then slowly lower it into the 350° F oil. Cook the shrimp in batches, no more than 2 or 3 at a time, depending on how big your pot is. Don't over crowd the oil.
- Slowly drizzle 2-3 spoonfuls of batter onto each piece of shrimp. Drizzle it in random patterns all over. There will be a lot of the batter that bubbles away and does not stick. That's ok and perfectly normal.
- Cook the tempura until it is golden brown, 1-2 minutes.
- Remove and place on a rack or strainer to allow excess oil to drip off.
- Repeat with the rest of the shrimp. In between batches, use a strainer to remove all the excess bits of batter (there will be a lot) that did not stick. You want to have clean oil whenever starting a new batch.
- Use all purpose flour, or anything that is low in protein. Don't use anything labeled bread flour.
- Use ice water for the batter.
- Don't over mix the batter. Lightly stir until the the ingredients are mixed, then stop. Some lumps are ok.
- Be sure to use strainer to clean out all the little bits of batter in between batches.