How to Stretch Shrimp for Tempura
Have you ever tried to skewer shrimp before frying in tempura batter only to lose the coating once you pull the skewer away? Ever wonder how sushi bars get their tempura shrimp to stay so exceptionally straight AND keep their batter intact?
There are two secret methods for making this happen. The first involves opening a thawed package (which has a freezer shelf life of up to 18 months) of shrimp from who knows where that has been meticulously flattened to look much larger than they really are. Chances are it is completely flavorless and definitely not sustainable. These mass produced “tempura” shrimp are also so incredibly cheap, that you would be angry with your sushi bar were you to find out how much they cost. Very angry.
The second method is to stretch them. Stretching is very simple and yields much more flavorful results. You can use this easy method at home to ensure that your shrimp are wielded into a stay flat position. All you need is a sharp paring knife.
Here’s how it works:
1. If your shrimp are whole, remove the heads. (Save those guys, though. They make a cool presentation when fried and added to the plate. And if you’re feeling adventurous, eat them. Fried shrimp heads = good.) Peel and devein the shrimp. Leave the tail intact, if desired. The tail looks quite cute sticking beyond the edge of a sushi roll. Give the tail a sleek tailored look by trimming it at a sharp 45 degree angle.
2. For each shrimp, flip over to reveal the underside. Make 1 slanted incision near the center of the body making sure it goes from side to side on the shrimp, but not so deep that it cuts the shrimp in half. Go a short distance down and make one more similar incision.
3. Flip the shrimp over so that the place where you nicely deveined it faces upwards. Take you thumbs and index fingers and apply a light pressure down the body of the shrimp. I usually start with the head side and move towards the tail. Your shrimp will become longer in length. But don’t press too hard or you’ll break it.
4. To make tempura shrimp, lightly dredge your stretched shrimp in cornstarch or potato starch. Shake away the excess. Dip shrimp in prepared tempura batter and slide into heated oil. To make your stretched shrimp appear even larger, drizzle 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of tempura batter over each shrimp as they rise near the top of the oil. Fry until golden brown. Remove and allow to drain on a wire rack. If using for sushi, allow to cool a couple of minutes before using inside a sushi roll.
Basic Tempura Batter
1 cup flour
1 cup water + 2-3 ice cubes
Stir ingredients together in a small bowl with chopsticks. Do not overmix the batter. Some lumps are okay.
To fry, heat at least 1 inch of cooking oil in a heavy bottomed skillet to 350 degrees.