Kakiage is a popular type of Japanese tempura that makes for the perfect crowd-pleasing party platter food, appetiser, or side dish. It’s made from an assortment of thinly sliced vegetables (and sometimes seafood) woven together in a batter to create crispy tempura fritters. Although its intricate presentation and delicious flavour can make it seem complex, it’s relatively easy to make. It can also be made vegan-friendly and served in many different ways such as kakiage donburi, kakiage soba, and kakiage udon so it’s a fantastic and versatile dish!
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What is Kakiage?
Kakiage tempura is a popular Japanese dish that consists of mixed vegetables and sometimes seafood deep-fried in tempura batter. It’s a popular side dish and can be served in many different ways, such as kakiage donburi, kakiage soba noodles and kakiage udon. The word “kakiage” translates to “mixed frying” in English, which perfectly describes the essence of this dish. The main ingredients used for kakiage are thinly sliced vegetables such as onions, carrots, green beans, gobo burdock root, and sometimes shrimp or squid. These ingredients are then lightly coated in a tempura batter made from flour, water, and sometimes egg and fried together to create deliciously crispy fritters.
Common Ingredients Used in Making Kakiage
Typical kakiage vegetable ingredients are: onion, carrot, sweet potato, green beans, kabocha squash (pumpkin), gobo burdock roots, renkon (lotus roots) and shiitake mushrooms.
These vegetables add great texture, a touch of sweetness, and all taste delicious no matter which you choose to put together.
Adding seafood to kakiage is a great way to bring in more flavour, complementary textures, and a dose of protein.
Seafood suggestions are: shrimp, squid or calamari, scallops, fake crab sticks (kanikama/surimi).
To bring some aromatic warmth, freshness, and flavour to the kakiage, try adding things like ginger, scallions (green onion), or Japanese herbs like shiso leaves or mitsuba.
The batter plays an integral role in achieving that perfect crispy texture for your kakiage. It typically consists of flour mixed with ice-cold water. Some variations may also include additional ingredients like egg, baking soda, or even carbonated drinks to create an extra airy and crispy coating.
To further elevate the flavours of kakiage, various dipping sauces are commonly served alongside it. The most popular options include soy sauce-based ponzu sauce (citrusy and tangy) and tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce).
Step by Step Instructions
Tempura is simple and although it requires a little bit of skill to make perfectly crispy tempura every time, it is achievable by following these steps.
- Julienne the vegetables: create uniform slices by julienning the vegetables or cutting them into thin strips or matchstick-like pieces.
- Soak in Ice Water: Once you have julienned all your veggies, soak them in ice water for around 10-15 minutes. This step helps to crisp up the vegetables while removing any excess starch.
- Drain Thoroughly: After soaking in ice water, drain the vegetables well using a colander or paper towels to remove the excess moisture completely. Excess moisture can lead to soggy kakiage instead of a crispy texture.
- Coat in flour : Sift flour over the julienned veggies and toss before mixing with the batter.
- Mix with Batter: Prepare a simple tempura batter by combining flour (all-purpose or tempura flour) and ice-cold water until you get a smooth consistency similar to pancake batter. Be careful not to over mix to avoid gluten forming.
- Combine Veggies with Batter: Add vegetable strips into the prepared batter and gently mix them until all the vegetables are evenly coated. Be careful not to overmix, as it can result in a dense kakiage.
- Fry Until Golden Brown: Heat vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or pot to around 350°F (175°C). Drop spoonfuls of the vegetable-batter mixture into the hot oil, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until they turn golden brown.
Tips for Making Kakiage
- Make sure the vegetables are all a uniform size.
- Sift the flour before mixing the tempura batter. Aerating the flour results in light and crispy kakiage.
- Refrigerate the ingredients of the tempura batter in order to prevent gluten formation.
- Coat the vegetables with flour before mixing with tempura batter. It removes the moisture on the surface of the material and acts as an adhesive to attach the tempura batter to the vegetables.
- Keep deep frying oil temperature around 350F/175C.
- The batter should not be over mixed. Over mixed batter will create a glutinous batter and the tempura will not be crispy.
Kakiage can be enjoyed on its own served with a dipping sauce like tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce made from dashi, mirin, and soy sauce) or ponzu (citrus-based soy sauce). Tentsuyu is my personal recommendation because its savoury-sweet umami flavour is crafted to accompany tempura and truly elevates every bite. Kakiage can also be topped with flavoured salt which has become a trendy addition in other countries but isn’t traditional in Japan.
Pairing suggestions with other dishes or soups
Kakiage also works wonderfully as a side dish as it adds a delicious crunchiness to any meal. It pairs well with steamed rice, noodles, and soups.
- Miso Soup: The savory umami flavor of miso soup goes hand in hand with kakiage. Enjoy a warm bowl of miso soup alongside your crispy kakiage for a comforting and satisfying meal.
- Soba Noodles (Kakiage Soba): Serve your kakiage over a bed of hot or cold soba noodles for an authentic Japanese experience. The nutty flavor and chewy texture of soba noodles perfectly balance out the crispiness of the tempura.
- Rice Bowl (Kakiage Don): Create a hearty rice bowl by placing your kakiage on top of steamed rice and drizzling it with a flavorful sauce like teriyaki or sweet soy glaze.
- Udon Soup (Kakiage Udon): Add some extra oomph to your udon noodle soup by topping it off with freshly fried kakiage. This popular pairing goes well because of the softness of the noodles and the crunchiness of the tempura, creating an enjoyable contrast in every spoonful.
- Sushi Rolls: Enhance your sushi rolls by incorporating kakiage as one of the fillings. Whether you prefer vegetarian rolls or seafood-based ones, adding slices of kakiage will add a delicious taste and crispiness.
- Bento Box: Include kakiage as a part of your Japanese bento box alongside other delightful items such as teriyaki chicken, pickled vegetables, and steamed rice. The combination of various flavours and textures makes for a well-balanced and satisfying meal.
A : Kakiage is a type of tempura. Tempura is typically characterized by its individual pieces of lightly battered seafood or vegetables however kakiage consists of various ingredients mixed together in a fritter-like form. It’s still delicate and light like other tempura but is more substantial.
Japanese Kakiage Tempura : Crispy Vegetable Fritters
- ½ onion
- ½ Carrot
- ¼ sweet potato
- 3 Shiso leaves *1
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 5 tbs all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 100 ml water
- 50 ml Oil for deep frying *2
- Sift flour into a bowl and refrigerate with water in another bowl.
- Peel and cut the onion in half, then slice thinly. Cut the carrot into sticks and put them aside. Cut the shiso leaves thinly. Cut the sweet potato into sticks same as the carrot.
- Soak them in ice water for around 10-15 minutes. *3
- Drain the vegetables well using a colander or paper towels to remove excess moisture completely.
- Start heating oil in a deep frying pan to 170 degrees (350°F).
- Place the sliced vegetables in a bowl and coat with 2 tbsp flour.
- Remove the water bowl and flour bowl from the fridge. Sift in the flour and some salt into the water bowl and mix together. Try to avoid mixing it too much to avoid the batter becoming glutinous.
- Add the sliced vegetables and mix them with batter, try not to over mix.
- Scoop the mixture with a ladle and with a pair of chopsticks, slide the batter and vegetable mixture into the oil gently.
- Deep fry the batter till golden brown on both sides.
- Serve with salt or tempura dipping sauce. *4