© David Loftus
the best tempura lobster with dipping sauce
Tempura is a crisp batter which originated from Portuguese settlers in Japan and has become a part of Japanese culture. It’s great for battering fish, shellfish and vegetables. In Japan there are lots of tempura restaurants where everyone sits behind a bar and you get given the most amazing tempura for over two hours by a chef and his “master,” who does a lot of shouting.
To kill a lobster take a sharp knife, place it at the crown of the head, and cut straight down — this will kill it straight away. Twist off the tail and both claws and discard the rest of the body and the legs (or keep to make soup or stock). Cut the tail in half lengthwise and each tail half into 3. Chop the claws into 3 and place, in a bowl, with the tail pieces.
Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
I suggest you use a deep-fat fryer as it’s easier to control. Heat it to 325°F. You can use a wok half-filled with sunflower oil, safely positioned on a stove with a thermometer, but be aware of other people (curious kids) and of possibly knocking things over if doing it this way. To make the batter, whisk the egg yolks and iced water together, add the corn- starch and flour, and stir together using chopsticks — this helps to keep the batter a bit lumpy, which is what you want. Add the okra, chillies and lobster pieces to the batter. Once battered, pick up the lobster and veg, shake off any excess batter and carefully put them into the oil.
Don’t try to cook the tempura all at once — do them in 4 or 5 batches. Cook them until light golden and crisp on both sides. Remove them using a slotted spoon, drain on some paper towels and then put them onto a plate. Serve the tempura with the dipping sauce and a dish of flavored salt — I would suggest either jasmine tea salt or citrus salt.
Try this: I once worked in a Japanese restaurant, and when the chefs put the vegetables into the oil, they dripped extra batter from a height onto them. This gave the tempura a really crunchy, spiky look and feel. You don’t have to do this, but it’s a good little trick.
Or this: Feel free to tempura any other veggies you fancy. Fine slices of sweet potato, whole scallions, cilantro stalks and baby zucchini with their flowers are all good.
• 2 21/2 lb live lobsters
for the dipping sauce
• 12 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
• 4 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
for the tempura
• sunflower oil 2 egg yolks 1 1/2 cups iced
• water 1 teaspoon cornstarch
• 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
• 1 handful of okra, left whole 4 fresh red chillies, left whole
• optional: edible flowers, such as viola, borage, zucchini