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Nyonya Delicacies

Deep Frying Seafood

(Newsletter Issue #008)


How to deep fry seafood

The advantage to deep-frying seafood is that it comes out of the oil intensely hot, crisp and flavorful. No other cooking method creates such a satisfying and distinct contrast between the moist interior and the fragile, crunchy crust. Lean white-fleshed fish fillets are excellent deep-fried, as are shrimp, squid and baby octopus.


Prepare seafood for frying by coating it with something that produces a crust: flour, a bread crumb coating, a light flour and water (or club soda) batter, or a tempura batter. Flour results in a subtle crust that is barely noticeable; you taste more of the fish. Breading and batters make a more apparent, crunchy outer coating, Tempura batter makes the crunchiest coating of all. If you want to emphasize the fish, use a flour coating. If you want to emphasize the crust, use a breading or batter. For lots of crunch, use a tempura batter.


Tempura batter is fundamentally different from other flour-based deep-fry batters. While other batters are mixed until perfectly smooth (and perhaps strained) and then given a rest period to allow the gluten to relax before frying, tempura batter is mixed together at the very last minute. The ingredients are just barely blended together (and therefore contain lumps) and so quickly that the gluten in the flour is never activated.

Shrimp Tempura

Japanese cooks usually serve shrimp tempura with a simple dipping sauce made by combining dashi, mirin ( a sweet wine used for cooking), soy sauce and ginger. Leave the small tail flippers attached when you peel the shrimp.

  1. Lightly combine egg yolks and ice water with chopsticks. Don't worry if the yolks are not fully blended. Pour in flour all at once and stir for a few seconds with the chopsticks until the batter barely comes together in a lumpy mass.

  2. Just before frying, dip the shrimp into the batter.

  3. Gently lower the shrimp, holding the tail flipper with tongs, one at a time into 370oF oil. Fry for about 1 minute.

  4. Take the shrimp out of the oil with a slotted spoon. You can also use a wire frying basket. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

Kitchen Notes

  • Deep-fry seafood at 370oF.

  • Fillets of lean white-fleshed fish such as cod, scrod, sole and flounder can be cut into thin strips called goujonettes. Goujonettes should be thin. If your fillet is thicker than 3/4 inch, cut it horizontally into 2 layers.

  • You can cut fish into goujonettes several hours in advance and refrigerate them, but don't flour until just before frying.

  • Tempura batter should be mixed only until the ingredients are barely combined, so as not to overwork the flour. Expect some lumps of dry flour in the batter, as well as dry flour remaining on the sides of the bowl. Japanese cooks like to mix tempura batter with chopsticks to avoid overworking it.

  • Serve deep-fried seafood as soon as it is cooked, while it is still very hot.

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