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2 x 1.3 kg live lobsters , from sustainable sources, ask your fishmonger
1 handful okra , left whole
4 fresh red chillies , left whole
edible flowers, such as viola, borage, courgette , optional
for the tempura batter
2 free-range egg yolks
350 ml water , iced
1 teaspoon cornflour
200 g self-raising flour
For the dipping sauce
12 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
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Tempura is a crisp batter which originates 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 the lobsters take a sharp knife, place it at the crown of the head, and cut straight down – this will kill them straight away. Twist off the tail and both claws. Cut the tail in half lengthways and each tail half into 3. Chop the claws into 3, slice up the remaining body meat, and place, with the tail pieces, in a bowl with any juice that comes out.
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 170°C/325°F. You can use a wok half-filled with 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 cornflour 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 to the batter. Feel free to add any other veggies you fancy. Fine slices of sweet potato, whole spring onions, coriander stalks and baby courgettes with their flowers are all good. Once battered, pick up the lobster and veg and carefully put them into the oil.
Don’t try to cook the tempura all at once – do them in 2 batches. Cook them until light golden and crisp on both sides. Drain them on some kitchen paper and then put them on to a plate. Serve the tempura with the dipping sauce and a dish of flavoured 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 veg into the oil, they dripped extra batter from a height on to 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.