A gossamer structure of vegetables held together with a nearly invisible layer of crisp tempura batter, Kakiagé (かき揚げ) is quite possibly my favorite kind of tempura. With a taste as delicate as its texture, all it needs is a sprinkle of umami rich finishing salt such as mojio or fleur de sel to season it. To the uninitiated a good Kakiagé can be a true revelation on how simple ingredients can be transformed into something magnificent.
Although it may seem like a jumble of vegetables, each component contributes something unique to this Japanese fritter. The onions lend a marvelous sweetness and complexity, characteristic of caramelized onions. The carrots deliver color and an earthy sweetness. The burdock ponies up a mineral flavor along with a delightfully crunchy texture, and finally the mitsuba adds a splash of green along with a fresh herbal note that completes the crispy cluster.
I've tried a bunch of different combinations of vegetables for Kakiagé and this is by far my favorite, but other vegetables can work as well. Sweet potatoes and kabocha pumpkin can add sweetness and volume, celery can add some flavor, and green beans can make this even more colorful. Some people like to add shrimp or scallops to Kakiagé, but I'm not a huge fan because they tend to get overcooked and chewy, making the Kakiagé heavier than they need to be.
If you've never worked with burdock before, it can be a bit tricky to work with as it tends to discolor very quickly. Head to my Kinpira Gobo post to learn how to cut and prep this tasty vegetable.
- Prepare the onions, carrots, burdock and mitsuba and add them to a large bowl, breaking up any clumps onions. Make sure your vegetables are very dry (use paper towels to dry them if they aren't).
- Prepare a wire rack lined with several sheets of paper towels. Heat a heavy bottomed pot with 1-inch of vegetable oil to 360 degrees F (180 C).
- Toss the vegetables together with the flour until the flour is evenly distributed.
- Add the cold club soda to the vegetables and then mix to combine. It's okay if there are a few small lumps of flour but there should not be any water at the bottom of the bowl. Be careful not to overmix the batter.
- The easiest way to shape the batter and ensure it does not fall apart while frying is to shape it on a spatula first, and then lower the whole spatula into the oil, using a second spatula to scrape the fritter off the first one.
- Fry the Kakiagé until they are no long limp and then flip and fry the other side (about 1-2 minutes)
- Fry the second side until it crisps as well (an additional 1-to 1 1/2 minutes).
- When the Kakiagé is crisp (but not yet browned), remove from the oil, draining as much oil from them as you can over the pot before transferring to your prepared rack.
- Serve the Kakiagé on a sheet of paper with a side of good finishing salt.