If you visit a tempura omakase restaurant, the last savoury course is usually a choice between ten don - a tempura fritter (kakiage) over rice, with miso soup on the side, or ten cha (kakiage over rice and green tea). I invariably choose the latter. I love the changing texture of the kakiage as it slowly becomes saturated with the tea, going from crisp to soft. On their own, the tea and rice seem a bit bland, but they become flavoured with the kakiage and whatever ingredients you choose to add, such as grated fresh wasabi and/or a light dusting of furikake (rice "sprinkles"). At home, ten cha is a delicious main course on its own; all you need to serve with it is Japanese pickles.
Kakiage can be made of many ingredients, but I love this combination of fresh shrimp and corn, with water chestnuts (for even more crunch) and spring onions (for flavour and colour). As with all my recipes, I use fresh shrimp, but if you’re pressed for time, use 450g (16oz) of shelled shrimp (avoid the frozen ones, though).
This batter is light and delicate, but please follow the instructions carefully. The egg and soda water need to be chilled, and you must take care not to overmix the batter – it should be lumpy, with small clumps of flour. Mix the batter just before frying; don’t let it sit around for too long.
Leftover fritters should be refrigerated, then reheated in a 200°C (390°F) oven for about 10 minutes.
Remove the heads and shells of the shrimp (use them to make broth for another occasion). Cut the shrimp meat into 1cm (7/16in) pieces. Peel the water chestnuts and thoroughly rinse them, to remove any mud. Cut the water chestnuts into 5mm (¼in) pieces, and the spring onions into 1.5cm (⅔in) lengths. Put the shrimp into a bowl with the water chestnuts, corn kernels and spring onion, then mix in one teaspoon of salt, or more to taste.
Pour oil to the depth of about 2cm (⅞in) in a skillet and place it over a low flame.
While the oil is heating, make the batter. Put the flour into a bowl. Whisk the egg and add it to the bowl, then pour in the soda water – it will foam up. Use a pair of chopsticks to very quickly mix the ingredients to form a lumpy batter. Add all of the shrimp/corn mixture to the batter and mix to coat the ingredients.
Turn the flame under the oil to medium and heat to 175°C (345°F). Drop spoonfuls of the shrimp/corn mixture into the oil and flatten them slightly. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the oil as close as possible to the correct temperature. Fry the fritters until firm and golden, then flip them over and cook the other side. When they’re crisp and cooked through, lift the fritters out of the oil and drain them on paper towels.
After frying the fritters, dip the shiso leaves or nori sheets (if using) into the batter left in the bowl, then fry until crisp before draining on paper towels.
Brew the sencha, making it a little stronger than you would for drinking. Scoop the hot rice into bowls and top each portion with two or three of the fritters and a fried shiso leaf or nori sheet. Pour the hot tea over the rice and let each diner season the ten cha with wasabi and furikake (if using) to taste. Serve the extra kakiage on the side with Japanese pickles.