Emilee and I love food history, and we’re always reading up on dishes and their origins. Portuguese Catholic missionaries brought tempura to Japan in the sixteenth century. Traditionally, Catholics served this dish as a vegetarian option during Lent and other times when they abstained from eating meat. At the Baker Creek restaurant, we are always on our toes come “tempura day,” as this is one of the most popular dishes we serve to employees and guests alike. The Thai basil leaves give the batter just a hint of intrigue that’s pleasing, but mysteriously hard to identify.
FOR MORE, SEE: Family-Friendly Vegan Recipes
• Vegetable oil for frying
• 2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 2 cups ice-cold seltzer water or club soda
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 8 Thai basil leaves
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
• 3 cups broccoli florets, very lightly steamed 3 cups cauliflower florets, very lightly steamed
• 1 medium onion, sliced into rings
• 1 medium garnet yam, peeled and thinly sliced
1. Heat 5" of oil in a large pot to 350 degrees F or fill a deep-fryer according to manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Combine flour, seltzer, baking powder, basil, paprika, and salt in a blender and puree until smooth, 15 to 20 seconds (mixture will resemble thick pancake batter). Transfer to a bowl.
3. When the oil is hot, use tongs to dip each vegetable into the batter and place in the heated oil a few pieces at a time. Remove vegetables once they float to the surface and are a light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes total.
4. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and serve with sauce (favorites are peanut sauce or sweet chili sauce).