Sweet and Sour Tempura Chicken

This is my first attempt at tempura. I have to say, I always thought it would be this extremely complicated procedure but, as it often happens, I was completely wrong. Deep frying the chicken pieces in a tempura batter keeps the moisture inside the chicken and, what with the batter itself not being extremely thick but, rather, crisp and light, the overall dish gains a completely new dimension. I have to admit I kept on eating the chicken pieces while I was waiting for the noodles to cook because they are just too good. If you’re a beginner with tempura like I was, please don’t panic. It’s easier than it looks and once you drop the chicken nugget in the scorching hot oil, nature will follow its course.

Rather than the more conventional rice, I decided to serve the chicken on a bed of noodles. The main reason being this week we already had quite a lot of rice, but in fact it also provides a much welcome alternative to the traditional recipe. The contrast between the crispy vegetables and chicken and the soft yet not mushy noodles is just phenomenal. I also like the fact the whole dish has very warm colours, what with the red and the orange provided for by the carrots and peppers. Needless to say, you can always substitute the vegetables with some which might suit your taste better (pak choi might be good). Last, but not least, do not freak out if the chicken cools down too much by the time your vegetables and/or noodles are ready. Once assembled, the sauce and side will slightly warm the chicken pieces up, bring the whole dish together.

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Ingredients (for the sauce)

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sherry
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 50ml water

Ingredients (for the tempura)

  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 table salt
  • 200ml fridge-cold sparkling water
  • a few ice cubes

Ingredients (for the stir fry)

  • 2-3 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1L groundnut oil, for frying
  • 2 red peppers, finely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 thumb-sized ginger piece, finely sliced
  • noodles or rice, to serve

Method

  1. Start by cutting the chicken breasts in bite-size pieces, then add them to a shallow dish and pour in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Set aside for later. Line a large plate with chicken paper.
  2. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, then set aside.
  3. Heat the groundnut oil in a deep fryer or a deep saucepan until it reaches 180C. To make sure, drop a cube of bread in the hot oil. If it browns quite quickly, then the oil is ready.
  4. Prepare the tempura batter only just before you are going to use it. Whisk the batter ingredients in a bowl and add the ice cubes. Quickly dip the chicken pieces in the batter, then drop them in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan and fry in batches if necessary. The chicken is ready when it is a deep golden brown all over. Feel free to test one by cutting it open with a knife. Once each cube has been fried, set aside on the kitchen paper to drain.
  5. Heat a wok to hot, then drizzle some groundnut oil and stir-fry the vegetables with the garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes. Pour in the sauce, then let it bubble down to a thick and glossy sauce.
  6. In the meantime, cook the noodles in plenty of water. When ready, drain them and toss them briefly with the vegetables and sauce, then arrange on a plate and top with the chicken pieces. Enjoy.

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