Monday, December 19, 2011

Chestnut tempura 栗の天ぷら

We got North American chestnuts from Girolami farm this year and were very much impressed with how good they were and I ordered another 3 lbs. One of the difficulties in dealing with chestnuts especially the North American variety is removing the inner brown skin or "shibukawa" 渋皮. It appears that the shibukawa does not just cover the surface of the chestnuts but goes deep into the cleavage of the nuts making it extremely difficult to remove, and making the nuts taste bitter if it is not removed. I do not remember this characteristic in Japanese chestnuts. In any case, I solved this problem after few tries (see below).
After I found the way to remove the shibukawa fairly easily and completely, I saw the description of chestnut tempura. Although I have never had or made this, I decided to try it. The above is the result. It is excellent and the chestnut's sweetness and nice texture came through very well.
I also made shiitake mushroom tempura and served them with my usual green tea salt as seen above.
Now my method of removing the shibukawa inner skin: I first soaked the chestnuts in cold water for a few hours. I put the pot with chestnut in it on high flame until it started boiling, I turned it down to simmer. I cooked for 15-20 minutes and shut off the flame. I let it sit in the pot for 20 or so minutes. I scooped up several chestnuts at a time using a large slotted spoon and started removing the outer and inner skins. It was still rather hot but just cool enough that I could handle them. When I pulled on the shibukawa using a paring knife, to my surprise it came off very easily and with a little care, the shibukawa even came out from the cleavages as seen above. When the chestnuts got cold or dry and were too long out of the cooking water, it became more difficult to remove the shibukawa and the nuts tended to break when I tried. So, I worked 4-5 chestnuts at a time. In any case, I got really good at it and removed both outer and inner skins breaking only few chestnuts. I produced a good numbers of intact chestnuts with both skins completely removed this way.

The tempura batter is my usual; a mixture of potato starch and cake flour mixed with cold water. I  made a somehwat thick batter for this. I deep fried it in fresh peanut oil at 340F for 3-4 minutes.

This is surprisingly good.  The natural sweetness of chestnuts is really enhanced and nice combined with nice "hokuhoku*" ホクホク texture. 

*It is difficult to translate to English. This is to express the texture of starchy root vegetables such as boiled or grilled potato especially roasted sweet potato called "Ishi-yaki Imo".

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