Prawn Tempura: First Attempt

Posted August 17, 2016 by Stephanie

I’m a huge fan of prawn tempura. And to be honest, I don’t know anyone who isn’t. I mean, what’s not to love about light and crispy batter around tender, juicy prawns? Prawn tempura has always been one of my favorites, ever since I was a little girl. You might even say that it’s comfort food for me, as strange as that sounds.

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In fact, once, after a bad breakup (okay, one of only 3 breakups I’ve had in my life), my parents brought me a takeout container of prawn tempura, just for me. It was a definitely pick-me-up. Forget flowers, the way into my heart (as Mike knows) is food. I’m always all about the food.

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Prawn tempura is one of those foods that I eat almost indiscriminately. There’s almost no such thing as bad prawn tempura. But the thing is, there is definitely GOOD prawn tempura. There are prawn tempura masters in Japan that study for years before they’re even allowed to get near the hot oil. It’s just like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but for Tempura – yes, with a capital T. It’s serious stuff.

tenshige akasaka - momose tempura -

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I’m no where near being a tempura master, what with this being my first attempt. And it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t excellent. But, with a big bowl of fluffy rice and a liberal dousing of tentsuyu (that addictive tempura dipping sauce), these little fried guys hit the spot. I have a feeling that there’s going to be a lot more prawn tempura-ing in my future.

Happy deep-frying!
xoxo steph

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Prawn Tempura Recipe
serves 2

  • 12 large prawns, deveined, tails left on
  • oil, for deep frying
  • handful of flour, to dredge
  • 1 large egg yolk, cold, from the fridge
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • tentsuyu or soy sauce, to dip


Throughly pat the prawns dry. Lay flat and make a few cuts along the belly to flatten. Lightly tap the back of your knife against the backs of the prawn to further flatten. Lay out on paper towels while you heat up 2-3 inches of oil to 350°F in a heavy bottomed, deep pot.

Set up an assembly line beside your stove: the prawns, a bowl filled with a bit of flour, then your batter. Have a rack set on a plate on the other side of the pot of oil for your finished prawns.

Do not make your batter in advance. Start it when your prawns are prepared and the oil is hot. In a bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk and then pour in the water, mixing slightly. Add the flour, all at once. Mix a few times with chopsticks, until very, very loosely combined. There will be lots of lumps; you definitely want a lumpy batter.

Test the oil heat by dropping in a bit of batter. It should drop below the surface then float up almost immediately, surrounded by tiny bubbles boiling around the edges.

When the oil is ready, use your hands to dip a prawn into the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into the batter once, with a smooth motion. Gently place into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally until the batter is golden and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oil and drain on your prepared rack. You can cook several prawns at once, just be careful not to crowd the oil and drop the temperature. I wouldn’t cook more than 3 at a time.

Enjoy hot, dipped in tensuyu or soy.

Notes: You can make your own tensuyu – try 1 tablespoon soy, 1 tablespoon mirin, 1 teaspoon dashi granules, and 1/4 cup water – or they sell concentrated versions at Japanese grocery stores.

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  1. whenever i’d go out with my family for japanese food, i’d fight for the shrimp (and carrot) tempura. not surprising, but it was a lot harder getting the shrimp than the carrot. i’ve never tried making tempura before, but maybe rice flour or cornstarch would make for better tempura than normal ap flour? idk, but it might be fun to try!

  2. june says:

    Try to find some pink limestone paste (SE Asian markets) and use the limestone water solution in your batter. It will be SUPER DUPER CRISPY. Although it is not traditional Japanese, it will change the whole tempura game.

  3. In Sao Paulo where I grew up they have a huge Japanese population and they had tons of restaurants that specialized in ONLY tempura. It was amazing. I remember hearing once the secret was to use super cold sparkling water in the batter?? After almost setting fire to our house trying to make tempura when I was in H.S. I haven’t really given it another try…maybe it’s time!

  4. Alana says:

    omg that hero image + typographic treatment. AMAZE. also, i’m a sucker for anything tempura. nailed it.

  5. prawnies!!! prawn tempura definitely was the highlight of the assorted tempura plate growing up going to sushi restaurants. yours look so darn cute! love the typography design too, steph!! XO

  6. Robert says:

    What is your go to oil for deep frying?

    1. Stephanie Le says:

      i like grapeseed! i also use rice bran oil a lot too.

  7. Kristy says:

    Try keeping the bowl with your batter inside a larger bowl filled with ice water. Keeping the batter cold is key and this really helps keep it super chilled.

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