Root vegetable kakiage tempura with tamari-kombu dipping sauce

Kakiage is a type of tempura in which vegetables are cut into a julienne—long, thin strips—before dipping into a batter and deep frying. When my wife was obsessed with making tempura for three months, kakiage was our favorite. In this recipe I call for parsnips, carrots, and burdock, but any hardy root vegetable would work. Be sure to revisit my tips for making tempura  to ensure that you nail this recipe. The tamari-kombu dipping sauce provides a range of flavors that enhance the taste of the kakiage: umami from the kombu; sweet from the coconut palm sugar and mirin; savory from the tamari; nutty from the sesame oil; spicy from the ginger; and bitter-peppery from the daikon. Give folks the option of adding a final layer of zest by serving shichimi togarashi—a common Japanese spice mixture found at Asian markets and some conventional supermarkets—mixed with black sesame seeds to sprinkle onto the kakiage.

Ingredients:

tamari-kombu dipping sauce

1 (3 by 5-inch) strip kombu

½ teaspoon coconut palm sugar

½ cup tamari or soy sauce

½ cup mirin

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

½ teaspoon fresh ginger juice

¾ cup coarsely grated peeled daikon radish

root vegetable kakiage tempura

4 to 6 cups sunflower oil, for frying

2¼ cups cake flour

5 tablespoons arrowroot powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups chilled club soda

1 cup thinly sliced white onion

¾ pound parsnips, peeled and julienned

¾ pound carrots, peeled and julienned

¾ pound burdock, peeled and julienned

¼ cup shichimi togarashi, for serving

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, for serving

¼ cup minced scallions, for serving

Directions:

Make the dipping sauce: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the kombu, sugar, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat. Stir in the tamari, mirin, sesame oil, and ginger juice, and set aside to cool for 15 minutes. Stir in the daikon immediately before serving.

Make the kakiage: Cut three 4 by 4-inch squares of parchment paper and set aside.

Pour enough oil into a cast-iron skillet to measure at least 1 inch deep. Place over medium-high heat and bring the temperature of the oil up to 375°F. Heat the oven to 200°F.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

While the oil is heating, whisk the flour, arrowroot, baking powder, salt, and pepper in a second large bowl.

Add the club soda and 4 ice cubes to the flour mixture and gently stir with a spoon until the batter just comes together, being careful not to overmix (it is fine if there are a few lumps). Place the bowl with the batter into the large bowl with the ice bath to keep the batter cold.

Add the onion and root vegetables to the batter and mix gently to coat.

Working in batches, grab a handful of vegetables, pile them on a piece of parchment paper, then gently slide the paper with the vegetables on it into the oil (remove the parchment paper with tongs after it detaches from the kakiage). Deep-fry the kakiage for 1 minute or so, then gently turn over with a spatula. Cook for another minute, until crisp and golden. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the kakiage to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Place the plate in the warm oven. Repeat, in batches, with the remaining vegetables and keep them warm in the oven.

Combine the shichimi togarashi and the sesame seeds in a small bowl, then pour into a pile on a large serving platter. Pile the scallions onto the platter, and place the dipping sauce onto the platter.

Transfer the kakiage to the platter and serve.