Give Your Fried Clams An Upgrade By Using Tempura Batter

Whether they started out canned or fresh, fried clams are one of the easiest appetizers out there and a fun way to do a seafood dinner on a budget. Fried clams offer the perfect bite with a hint of briny seafood flavor and crunch from the crisp batter. If you've had fried clams before, they were probably New England style, which uses corn flour and milk for a bready, deep-fried clam flavor. Instead, you can elevate your fried clams by opting to use a tempura batter, which is a lighter, puffy batter closely associated with Japan.

This batter is crispy and doesn't feel too weighed down by grease, making it a great way to enjoy fried clams. Compared to New England style fried clams, tempura batter is lighter in color and doesn't form as dense a crust around the clams. To make tempura-style fried clams, you can follow any tempura batter recipe out there, just be sure to use cold water, which is what makes it so light. The cold temperature prevents gluten from forming, and the final result is a delicately fried delight, perfect for dipping in sriracha mayo or Japanese BBQ sauce.

Tips for working with tempura batter

Working with tempura batter is similar to working with many other fried batters, but there are a few tips to get the best experience. You can use the chopstick test to ensure your clams don't take on too much oil during the frying process. As with other frying methods, it's important to let your tempura clams drain on a paper towel or clean dish towel to further remove excess oil — too much leftover oil can quickly make your tempura breading soggy. As a general rule for fried food, you should season it quickly after cooking to ensure the seasoning sticks well to the breading. 

Be sure to dry the clams off before frying so that the batter sticks to the clam meat better. When you batter your clams, only use a thin, slightly watery layer. Too much batter on the clams won't achieve that puffy tempura quality that you're looking for. If you find that your batter is struggling to stick to the clams, you can very lightly bread them in flour, creating a dryer surface for the batter to cling to.