Yes, it’s hot at the end of July in New England. The humidity is terrible. Maybe we’ll get some relief over the weekend – that’s what the weather forecast is saying. Today, I had seven large shrimp that I took out of the freezer to prepare for dinner. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them, but as the dinner hour neared, I decided to make shrimp tempura. It wasn’t a big deal because I’ve made it many times and it’s one of our favorite dishes.
The reason I’m writing about it tonight is that I learned how to “stretch” the shrimp! Hah! At first, I thought the term “stretch” had to do with slicing the shrimps in half lengthwise, thus “doubling” how many pieces that are served. But nope, that wasn’t it. I watched a Youtube clip by a Japanese chef demonstrating how to “stretch” shrimp.
Well, much to my astonishment, he did just that. To summarize what the method is, after making small perpendicular slices in the underside of the shrimp, the chef then turned the shrimp on one side and made small diagonal cuts, then turned it over and did the same on the other side. When you lay the shrimp on its back and pat it gently, the shrimp will elongate because of all the small bias cuts made to the sides of the shrimp. For example, a shrimp which was about 3 inches was “stretched” to 4-5 inches long!
I had always wondered where restaurants would get shrimps that were that long. For the first time now, I understood the preparation techniques that results in thinner, longer shrimp. It also cooks more quickly and is more tender to the bite because the shrimp is less dense without a thick center.
Because I enjoy cooking so much, learning a new technique like this for a favorite dish is something worth celebrating. Here are some other things I do when I make shrimp tempura that might be different from other recipes:
- Tempura batter consists of a coating for the dry prepared shrimp that is put together right before frying. It includes a half cup of flour (loosely measured,) a little cornstarch, an egg yolk and ice water. I use a flat whisk and mix the ingredients until it is light and airy but still lumpy. I look at it to make sure there’s enough batter for the number of shrimp I’m going to cook. Otherwise, I’ll add a little more flour and ice water and mix it in.
- Heat a small frying pan with vegetable oil.
- Pour some panko breadcrumbs into a separate dish.
- When the oil is hot (dip a chopstick into the batter and insert in the oil – it should start sizzling if the oil is hot enough); pick up one of the shrimp with both hands, dab it into the batter so it’s covered and then roll it in the panko crumbs. Lift it with both hands and gently lay it in the hot oil.
- Let the shrimp cook briefly until it is golden brown on one side and turn it over with chopsticks. I usually cook 2 at a time because that allows enough room in the pan and also helps me to pace the frying so it doesn’t get too hectic.
- Remove the cooked shrimp and place on paper towel to drain.
- Continue until you’ve cooked all the shrimp. You’ll notice that because the shrimp has been stretched, it is not only longer, but cooks faster and tastes more tender to the bite.
Well, I’m not sure that many people will be interested in making shrimp tempura on a hot muggy night (we do have the pleasure of a cooler so the temp inside wasn’t too bad) but I can heartily recommend this method of elongating the shrimp so that the final shrimp tempura is a dazzling success – both visually and taste-wise.