The Chopstick Test To Get Tempura Batter Right Every Single Time

Ingredients ranging from seafood to vegetables reach new heights when fried up into light, crispy bites coated in tempura batter. While achieving the perfect tempura batter is crucial, there's also a unique technique that can demystify the cooking process. Simply use chopsticks. Popularized by Chef Shota Nakajima, this method not only promises perfectly cooked tempura but also prevents the dish from becoming too oily.

At first glance, it might seem peculiar to use chopsticks for frying. However, the method has a sound rationale behind it. Chopsticks, being slender and sensitive, can pick up a range of vibrations, which you can feel in your hands. 

As the tempura-battered ingredient is immersed in hot oil, the moisture inside begins to escape in the form of steam, causing the batter to bubble and produce vibrations. It's possible to feel when the vibrations through the chopsticks are more pronounced, which indicates that there's still substantial moisture in the ingredient, signaling that it's not fully cooked.

However, as the cooking process progresses and the water content reduces, the oil gradually takes its place in the food, and the vibrations lessen. When these vibrations become more subtle, it's a sign that the tempura is crisped to perfection and cooked through — without being overdone.

The additional chopsticks advantage

Another advantage of using chopsticks for cooking tempura is the precision it offers in removing the food from the hot frying oil. Carefully lifting the battered ingredients with chopsticks rather than a slotted spoon allows you to extract them at an angle, ensuring that the excess oil drips off effortlessly and doesn't sit on top of the food and soak back in. This angled removal is vital in ensuring that the tempura doesn't become overly greasy, retaining its delicate crispness and light texture. The process allows gravity to take control of removing the oil via the most efficient path. 

Tempura, with its signature lightness, is a testament to the finesse of Japanese culinary techniques. By using chopsticks and feeling the vibrations, kitchen novices can become more intuitively engaged in the cooking process while making tempura at home. So, start practicing for perfect tempura, and remember to let your fingers feel the magic.