The seasonal lobster mushroom has a delicate yet seafood-like flavor that lends itself to simple preparations. So if you’ve enjoyed making tempura, then add lobster mushroom tempura to your repertoire.
The French Connection
I found the lobster mushrooms for this preparation at my local farmer’s market. One of the stalls features a French guy selling all sorts of both fresh and dried fungus. I had stopped by there on a previous visit and chatted with him about lobster mushrooms and specifically how to prepare them. He said he enjoys them most tempura style and dipped in a little soy sauce.
On this visit I decided to buy and handful and cook them in a couple of ways.
I first tried them in a lobster mushroom bisque, which did a great job of accentuating their flavor.
For my second dish I decided to take his advice and chose to do it tempura style. To accompany the mushrooms I picked up a daikon radish, a few shishito peppers, and some broccolini.
The Perfect and Easy Tempura Batter
I’ve never made a tempura so I went seeking an easy, approachable recipe. It turns out most tempura batters are pretty darn easy!
The one I chose had a nearly equal blend of all purpose flour, cornstarch, and club soda. I say nearly equal because it calls for 1 2/3 cups of all purpose flour, 1 1/2 cups cornstarch, and 2 cups of club soda. The problem is I only had just shy of a 1/2 cup of cornstarch, so I simply used that plus a 2/3 cup of flour and about 3/4 cup of club soda. This ratio stuck to the vegetables and gave a light and crispy texture after the frying. I would go to it again without hesitation.
Two things I remembered from reading about making tempura:
First, you want your club soda (some recipes use water) cold, ice cold if possible.
Second, you don’t want to overwork the tempura batter, otherwise you will create a lot of gluten, which will damage the texture. I combined the three ingredients and simply stirred them with a couple of chopsticks until the lumps had gone and then stopped. I tossed that mixture into the fridge to keep it cold while I prepped the veggies.
Frying the Lobster Mushroom Tempura
I filled my 5-quart cast iron dutch oven with about two inches of canola oil and heated it to 350 degrees. Then I used chopsticks to dredge the veggies in the batter and gently place them in the oil. You can cook them about 4-5 at a time until the batter turns to a light golden brown, about 5-6 minutes, turning them once or twice in the process with a slotted spoon.
Once they finished cooking, I removed them from the oil with the slotted spoon and placed them on a grate that was positioned over some parchment paper to catch drips.
For the dipping sauce, I chose a simple mixture of soy sauce and ponzu, which provided plenty of zing.
Tasting the Lobster Mushroom Tempura
This was a really great way to eat the lobster mushrooms. Their texture when fried with the tempura batter stayed soft and not chewy. I did not season the batter because I really wanted to taste the mushroom flavor and they did not disappoint. Don’t expect a flavor bomb, though. Instead, these have a subtle, seafoody essence that you want to taste before you go for the stronger flavors of the other veggies. Once you get into the daicon, broccolini and soshitos you may have trouble picking up the flavor.
I think I still prefer the mushroom in a bisque but the real takeaway here was that tempura is super easy to make and a delicious, light meal.
Lobster Mushroom Tempura
- 5-quart dutch oven or fryer
- Slotted Spoon
- Wire cooling rack
- 2 cups Lobster Mushrooms, sliced a ¼-inch thick
- 4-6 whole Shishito peppers
- 1 bunch Broccolini, cut lengthwise into bite-size pieces
- 1 whole Daikon radish, cut into 2-inch by ½-inch lengths
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or other dipping sauce I use low sodium. You do you.
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ⅗ cup all purpose flour Yes, that's a strange measurement. I used ½ cup plus a couple of tbsp of extra flour. Is that ⅗ of a cup? Close enough!
- ¾ cup club soda, cold
- ½ tbsp salt
- 3-4 cups Vegetable oil
- For batter, mix all ingredients in large mixing bowl using a chopstick. Your goal is to just get everything combined and get most of the lumps out of the flour. You don't want to whisk this or you will create too much gluten and lose the crispiness of the tempura. It's best to use cold club soda.
- Heat frying oil in large dutch oven, fryer, or heavy-bottom large soup pot until 350°
- Using tongs or chopsticks, dredge prepared vegetables and mushrooms 4-5 at a time in batter then gently place them into oil. Cook about 5 minutes, or until the batter turns a light golden brown. Turn them once or twice during cooking.
- Once cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon or tongs to a wire cooling rack placed over a sheet of parchment paper to cool and drain for a few minutes before you serve them.
- Serve with a soy sauce or other salty dipping sauce of your choice.
- Repeat until all veggies are cooked, making sure that oil gets back to 350° between each batch. This is good if you have a bunch of people hanging out in the kitchen and you want to serve them as you go.