Interested in trying your hand at some simple Japanese recipes – here’s one of my favourites – Kakiage– from my book “Zenbu Zen – finding food, culture and balance in Kyoto“ -published by Murdoch Books.
If you would like to take a look inside the book – check out these pages on Uber designer Reuben Crossman’s website!
This version of Kakiage is a very simple mixed vegetable tempura recipe – you just finely slice your veggies and add to a quickly thrown together batter then deep fry till golden. It is so very light, crisp and addictive! I also love it with chopped raw prawn or scallop meat mixed through. And of course the Japanese always use seasonal vegetables for variation – in Autumn for example the mixed mushroom Kakiage is out of this world!
** please note this is a slight variation on the recipe in the book, which also includes additional information and variations
30g (1oz/1 cup) leafy carrot tops ( greens) picked from baby (Dutch carrots)
4 baby (Dutch) carrots
75g (21/2oz) burdock root, preferably fresh (but you can use the frozen variety once thawed)
1/2 leek, white part only
vegetable or sesame oil for deep frying
fine salt and lemon wedges to serve, optional
50g (1 3/4 oz/1/3 cup) plain ( all purpose flour)
55g (2oz/1/3 cup) katakuriko (dog tooth violet starch OR potato starch)
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 small egg yolk
125ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) iced water
Rinse the carrot greens and set aside on kitchen paper or a clean tea towel (dish towel) to dry. Cut into 3cm (11/4 inch) lengths. Cut the carrots into very fine julienne (fine strips).
Peel and very finely julienne the burdock and place in a bowl of water with a little rice vinegar to prevent discolouration and to eliminate any bitterness.
Cut the leek into very fine julienne. Combine all the vegetables in a bowl mixing well.
One third fill a deep fryer or wok with oil and heat to 170C (325F) or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 20 seconds.
Meanwhile make the batter. Sift the flour, starch, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. Lightly mix the egg yolk and iced water in a bowl. Tip in the flour mixture and mix with chopsticks just to combine. Add the vegetables and combine well with the batter which should be slightly runny.
Carefully drop 1 tablespoon of mixture into the oil at a time and use a wire-mesh strainer to quickly drag back the spreading edges of the batter to retain a circular fritter shape. You will likely only fit 2-3 fritters in the oil at one time. Cook turning halfway through, for about 5 minutes, or until crisp, golden and cooked through. Drain well on kitchen paper.
Ideally serve as they come out of the fryer or keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining fritters. Serve with salt and lemon wedges.
Now… a few extra tips from me…
*A mere sprinkling of good salt is really all that is needed to serve… Kyoto-ites tend to prefer the delicate natural flavours of the seasonal ingredients to be the hero therefore a dipping sauce is not required. However a squeeze of lemon is a lovely addition – especially if you include some chopped prawns or scallops in the Kakiage ! Recently I enjoyed a summer kakiage of scallop and corn and it was sensational! In autumn a mix of Japanese mushrooms makes great use of flavoursome seasonal ingredients.
*You can use a wide selection of vegetables and may season with herbs and spices of your choice of course but in this authentic version I’ve used carrot, burdock, leek and nutritious leafy greens from baby carrots which are surprisingly delicious and a great way to use up ingredients you might normally discard! (in the book rehydrated kombu from the dashi recipe is also included). You will often hear “Mottainai” when talking with Japanese people about food – it loosely translates as waste not and most parts of animals, seafood and vegetables are used in some way.
*Important: Images are the copyright of the fabulous Photographer Cath Muscat and must not be replicated.