A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of watching my friend R. stare down our friend Z. until Z. ate her sweet potato tempura. R. has celiac disease, meaning gluten does nasty things to her digestive tract, so she hadn’t had tempura in over three years. And that day, Z. kept talking instead of eating until R. finally demanded, “Can you please eat that sweet potato?!”
So, knowing that rice flour is often used in tempura batter, I offered to make R. lots of gluten-free sweet-potato tempura. The batter is fairly thin, but I prefer it that way. It was marvelously crunchy, and R. was thrilled.
Gluten-Free Tempura Batter (adapted from Cooking Light)
2 cups rice flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold carbonated water
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl. Add the carbonated water and whisk until smooth.
The batter was the right amount to make tempura for six people. Use whatever vegetable or protein you like. I’ve had steak tempura before (the meat was about a 1-inch cube), as well as banana tempura with chocolate sauce for dessert. For this meal, I cooked sweet potato, red pepper, zucchini, broccoli and eggplant.
I made the following sauce following a recipe in a Japanese cookbook my mom got me:
1 cup dashi (bonito flake stock)
3 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
4 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat through.
If you use gluten-free dashi and gluten-free soy sauce, your entire meal will be gluten-free.
A word about cooking temperature: my Japanese cookbook recommended a lower temp for the vegetables, about 320 degrees. Cooking Light recommends 380. I found 360-ish to work well for this batter, and after draining the tempura on paper towels, it wasn’t greasy at all.