Butterfly the shrimp by slicing halfway through, along the back of the shrimp.
Whisk together the ingredients for the batter, following directions.
Coat the marinated shrimp in the batter well.
Cook the shrimp in the hot oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes.
Drain the shrimp on paper towels.
Shrimp Tempura with Cilantro
Tempura is the extremely delicate Japanese art of deep-frying. Done properly with the right batter and hot oil, it quickly seals delicate flavors, especially something as fragile as shrimp. The batter should be dry and crisp after the deep frying.
12 jumbo shrimp
1 large or 2 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
Leaves of 4 or 5 sprigs cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 medium limes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
Peanut oil for frying
1 bunch spinach, leaves only
Butterfly the shrimp: Peel and devein the shrimp with a small sharp knife. Butterfly the shrimp by cutting along the back, halfway through. Arrange the shrimp on a large platter. Sprinkle with the minced jalapeño and the chopped cilantro. Pour the lime juice over and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, refrigerated. When ready to cook, season lightly with salt.
Prepare the batter: In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Whisk in the water until the batter is smooth, then add the remaining ingredients, seasoning with cayenne and salt to taste. Place small bowl in slightly larger bowl full of ice to keep batter ice cold. This ensures crisp tempura.
At serving time, in a deep, heavy saucepan, wok, or deep-fat fryer, heat 3 inches of oil to 350° F.
Dip each shrimp into the batter and coat well. Carefully place three or four in the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or flat strainer and drain on paper towels. Keep warm while preparing the remaining shrimp and the spinach.
In the same oil, cook the spinach. Drain on paper towels and season lightly with salt.
Arrange a few fried spinach leaves on each of 4 plates. Place 3 shrimp on top and serve immediately.
Fresh, young, aromatic wines are the partners I prefer for Asian appetizers. I look for Sauvignon Blancs (or Fumé Blancs as they’re often called in California) like Geyser Peak or Kendall Jackson, or the inexpensive Semillon-Chardonnay blends from Australian producers like Rosemount, Seppelts and Penfolds.
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