Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dandy Tempura


In case you haven't noticed, dandelions have bigger brains than people. Seriously. And they get smarter each time you whack them. Mow a lawn of dandelions repeatedly and what happens? The dandelions learn to flower ever closer to the ground until those yellow Cheshire cat faces are grinning at you from beneath the grass. They know exactly how far down the cutting blade can reach, and that's where they proliferate once again.

The other day, after harvesting a few batches of dandelion petals for Dandy Bread, I actually mowed my lawn, surprising myself even more than my neighbors. It's been a week and the yard is already replenished with dandelions. No biggie. I picked a bunch of blooms for tempura.

Got a problem with tempura? I didn't think so. Here at FOTL we may periodically throw a tizzy about health and nutrition and generally staving off rot, but you won't hear a lot of griping about FAT. It's the stuff for which our ancestors put their lives on the line. Need some fat to survive the winter? Roger that, let's tool up and take down one of them #$*%&@ woolly mammoths again. Tucking into a bag of pork rinds doesn't carry quite the same cachet.

Yeah but making you own tempura and making it well is almost as cool as hurling a prehistoric projectile at an oversized elephant having a bad hair day. And while I've tried a bunch of tempura recipes over the years with wildly varying results, this time I think I figured out the secret. Whatever you do, make it more watery than you deem appropriate. I used a recipe found here, then tweaked it.

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 cup ice-cold water, plus extra
1 tbsp rice wine
1 egg

In a bowl mix the flour and corn starch. In a second larger bowl, beat an egg until frothy, then add the ice water and beat some more. Stir in the rice wine. Now add the dry ingredients and mix quickly, not worrying about the lumps. Don't over-mix! If the batter oozes off a spoon, it's too thick. Add more ice water until the batter is watery. It'll seem way too watery if you're used to making, say, Beer-Batter Fish and Chips, but trust me.

Now proceed over to the stove with your bowl o' batter and a plate of dandy flowerheads. Your vegetable oil should be good and hot by now. Flick in a drop of water to see if it pops and sizzles. Using your hands, dip a dandy in the seemingly too thin gruel. The batter will run off the dandy in sheets but the flower will still be thinly coated and looking rather sad and soggy. Gently drop the dandy into the oil, petals facing down, and PRESTO! The flower opens up as if the sun has just come out. (This miracle of kitchen chemistry won't happen if the batter is too thick and heavy.) It's really quite amazing to see the dandy regain its form, albeit with a beautifully thin veneer of crispy tempura as its new skin.

Dandy Tempura has an unusual mouth feel. If the batter is right, the outer crust should be crispy, yet being a flower, the overall texture is squishy. I mix the dandies in with other more traditional fare: sweet potato, bell pepper, onion, and zucchini, to name a few.

Now go pick a mess of ridiculously nutritious dandelions and start frying. That'll teach those PhD weeds!

22 comments:

Becky said...

Bravo! Excellent pics as always and you left me with a line that will stay with me all day:
"almost as cool as hurling a prehistoric projectile at an oversized elephant having a bad hair day."

Martha Silano said...

PhD-ed buggers! Pop 'em into yer mouth like shrimp balls, which is sorta what these tempera dandy blossoms taste like. You won't even know you're missing meat, I swear.

Paige at The Spice House said...

Wow - I love dandelion greens in salads, but I didn't even know the flower heads were edible! I will definitely by trying this. I've never understood why people hate dandelions on the lawn - they're one of the prettiest flowers around, and fun to play with too!

Ra said...

I had no idea... As I get more and more into foraging of wild foods, I am amazed at how much is out there that most people don't know about. So nothing about the dandelion then is toxic, cooked or fresh?

LC said...

Becky - I woke up in the middle of the night with that line. Sleep...blog...sleep...blog?

Marty - Shrimp balls! I like that.

Paige - Thanks for stopping by. Yep, they're definitely edible. Give 'em a try!

Ra - All good and easy to spot. I also like to use the buds in omelets. Thanks for the visit.

Gina said...

That's pretty funny!

Ra said...

Oh wow, I didn't realize you were a writer (I just followed your blog from the PSMS link you sent earlier about Verpas). And the book that you're publishing looks to be EXACTLY what I was looking for earlier (I found plant foraging, or berry foraging, but not an all-around foraging book, especially for this region). Thanks for writing it! Any ideas on when it'll be available?

LC said...

Ra - Thanks for you interest in the book! It comes out Aug. 30, although it's available for pre-order now--there's a link above right, just below my "False Morel Poll."

If you click the link you'll see the book cover, which was just finished.

tiny banquet committee said...

This sounds terrific. I love edible flowers but living in NYC I am very careful about sourcing them. All your dandelion recipes are making me wish I had a yard full of them. I bet this would be good with chickpea flour too.

pixen said...

Thank you for that lovely recipe... now, you made me think of Tempura Dandies stick out in the garden waiting to be pluck and dip in tempura sauce!!! (imagined herself holding a bowl of dipping sauce, running around the garden with hashi!)

I love reading your blog and the interesting infos. Thank you for sharing.

Cynthia said...

I KNEW my mother way lying to me when she told me way back when that dandelions weren't edible. Thanks for the recipe!

T said...

Wow! I am officially your newest fan, I found a big patch of chickweed out in front so I made the chimichurri and it was delish...

Liz said...

What a great idea! I love the concept of foraging in your backyard.

slow-one said...

Nice, I often wonder at the different foods one will need to eat and attempt to eat when the world end as we know it :0....

One thing we will definitely have is dandelions and crawdads...

::::wifemothermaniac:::: said...

sweet, we're going to try this tomorrow!

Vicki said...

I wish I could get dandelions that haven't been peed on by local pets, I've been wanting to tempura those buggers forever.

b. said...

i really want to try these, and i have a huge backyard full of them, but i'm afraid of missing a tiny bug or two and eating them. how do you clean yours? i would be so tedious.

LC said...

Been out digging clams and shucking oysters--thanks for all the comments in my absence!

Tiny Banquet - Probably a good idea to exercise caution when foraging in very urban places. This is an issue I plan to research for a future post, so stay tuned.

Pixen - Grazing on the lawn with dipping sauces is certainly an option!

Cynthia - Moms try hard to keep us out of trouble, but sometimes the received wisdom is a tad off...

T - Hooray for eating weeds. Well done!

Liz - Delicious & healthy forage is waiting right out the back door...

Slow-one - Looking forward to a Crawdad Boil post this summer!

Wifemothermaniac - Excellent. Please report back.

Vicki - The pee factor is a consideration. Choose spots wisely!

B. - No cleaning, really. And you probably don't want to know the stats on how many bugs each of us eats accidentally per year...

denise said...

it seems suddenly dandelions are all the rage. I had a friend recently hunting them down for wine making, tea is making muffins, and now you are frying up tempura. who knew?! not me... i was going to tell you to just get rid of that lawn, but then you'd lose your dandies. hmmm... what to do? what to do?

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

OK, now that's just cool. Me likey. Only suggestion I have on the batter is to switch out for club soda or seltzer water -- you get an even lighter, crispier tempura that way.

Sylvie said...

Years ago I made dandelion wine. Did not realize you were suipposed to use only the petals (or rather, read that, decided it would take too log and put the whole flower heads in there). A little ... bitter... shall we say. Undiscouraged, I added oranges, lemons and honey... and ended up with something quite palatable.

Never done it again, as the petal plucking seemed a bit much. But love the FOTL method, twist the petals while collecting.

I think there is dandelion wine in the future again.

Melany said...

Fantastic! Something about deep fat frying that makes everything tastier : ) It works great with Turkish towel seaweed too, no tempura necessary(if you guard against splatter).

I can't wait to try this for dinner tonight!