How do you get the seafood-phobic to eat squid? Deep-fry it, of course. Calamari is always a bar-snack favourite, but it’s even nicer when given the tempura treatment – light and crisp and as easy to eat as popcorn. You’ll find these in both home kitchens and izakaya in Tokyo and they are excellent fodder for sake or beer.
Makes a very large amount – certainly enough for 4, maybe enough for 8
200g plain flour
1 tbsp aonori
¼ tsp salt
400ml very cold sparkling water
600g squid rings
about 1.5 litres oil, for deep-frying
1 lemon, quartered
Heat the oil in a very wide, deep pan to 190°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, simply drip a few drops of the batter into the oil to test it. If the batter sinks, it’s too cold. If the batter immediately floats and sizzles, it’s too hot. If the batter sinks just below the surface of the oil, then rises up and start to sizzle, it should be perfect.
Mix together the flours, aonori and salt – ensure the flours are well combined or the batter will be difficult to mix. Beat the egg, then mix with the sparkling water.
Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix just until the batter comes together and is the consistency of double cream – it should still be slightly lumpy. It’s a good idea to mix the batter with chopsticks so the gluten in the flour isn’t worked too much as it’s mixed.
Dredge the squid rings in the batter, let some of the excess batter drip off, then carefully drop them into the hot oil. Fry until barely golden and hard to the touch (feel them as they fry with chopsticks or tongs). You will probably have to do this in batches, in which case you can just eat them as they come out and then go back and fry some more. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately or keep them hot in an oven set to 60-70°C/gas mark ¼, or as low as your oven will go, with the door slightly open to let the moisture out. Serve with lemon wedges and mayo on the side.
Extracted from Tokyo Stories by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, approx €30.50). Photography © Nassima Rothacker