We met Jessica, otherwise known as the Sodium Girl when she took a hands-on beginning food photography workshop with us. We instantly hit it off, and even after the class was over, we sat around talking about food, photography and shooting that perfect photo. 10 years ago she was diagnosed with Lupus which eventually attacked her kidneys, causing failure. Thankfully due to great medicine and a supportive group of family and friends, she beat it. Her diet changed, but her passion for eating did not. She teaches and shares through her adorable site how one can enjoy food without all the added sodium but enhancing with other ingredients. We love her recipes, and you will too. You can find Jess on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and you can buy her delicious cookbook!
Let’s begin with some real talk. There are only a few things in life that make me really nervous: wooden roller coasters; the apocalypse; and frying foods at home. I try to avoid all three at all cost.
But seeing that I have this opportunity to make a meal for you today, I decided to conquer one of these fears. Fill a pot with canola oil. Fry a bunch of vegetables. And learn a few important lessons along the way. One being that tempura taco should be made once a month, minimum.
Before we jump into that hot oil though, let me explain something. When lowering the sodium in meals, it’s essential to bump up the other flavor makers. I’m talking strong, exotic spices. Lots of colors. Exciting smells (because, yes, you eat with your nose too). Interesting textures. And unsuspecting ingredients–otherwise known as thinking outside of the box.
And tacos are a great place to stretch your culinary imagination. So being a huge fan of fried fish tacos, I decided to give it a twist. Put all these pointers into practice. And make tempura tacos instead.
Here ’s what I found out: 1) Tempura tacos are a great way to give expiring veggies new life–just use what you have in your fridge, slice them thinly, or shred and bundle together. 2) Hot oil isn’t as intimidating as expected (nor as messy)–just get your station set up before you start frying and everything is golden, literally. 3) Tempura’d lime and jalapeno slices are mind-blowingly delicious. 4) YOU DON’T NEED A THERMOMETER to test the temperature–just use a wooden spoon and this trick from Food52.com, it’s genius! 5) All the ingredients come together in a flash, so even though this sounds really fancy, you’ll actually have crispy vegetables on the table in under an hour.
Then, it’s all about the table spread. To top off my tempura tacos, I made an avocado, lime cream sauce. I shredded some savoy cabbage. Tore apart fresh cilantro leaves. And sprinkled everything with Japanese seven spice (or schichimi). But of course, be my guest and play with other taco accessories. Like purple cabbage; shredded and pickled carrots or ginger; sriracha; shredded nori; and things I didn’t even dream of. It’s your tempura taco, so make it just like you want it.
With that, I hand it back over to you. Conquer your fears, fry some vegetables, and make a tempura taco. I promise you won’t be sorry. But you will surely be full.
Vegetable Tempura Tacos
Avocado Lime Cream Sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro stems
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
2 limes, zest, and juice
NOTE: Cilantro stems actually have a lot of flavor in them! So when you are using the leaves in a dish, put those stems to use in sauces and soups.
Place the garlic, cilantro stems, jalapeno, and coriander seeds into a food processor and pulse a few times to chop. Then add the avocado and lime juice. Pulse again until well combined and smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
Tempura Tacos adapted from NYTimes.com
3/4 cup all-purpose flour + extra for dredging
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup seltzer water, chilled
4 cups of vegetable pieces: sliced squash; wax or green beans; sliced lemons and limes; sliced jalapeno; shredded carrots and zucchini; broccoli or cauliflower florets
Canola or grapeseed oil for frying
Japanese seven spice (or a DIY mix of cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and sesame seeds)
1 lime, cut into four wedges
1/2 small savoy cabbage, shredded
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
8 corn tortillas, toasted on stove top flame
In a medium bowl, use a fork to combine the flour and the egg. Slowly add the chilled seltzer water and mix until you have a lumpy batter.
In a medium-sized dutch oven or a deep saucepan, begin heating 2 to 3 inches of oil. If you have a thermometer, the oil is ready when it reaches 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil is ready when bubbles form around the end of a wooden spoon. (see: this trick).
Then, before you do any frying, set up your mise en place and frying station. On one side of the stove, line up your vegetable slices, a flat dish with flour for dredging, and your batter. Then, safely on the other side of your hot oil, set up a large baking sheet covered in paper towels, your salt and spices, and a spider skimmer (or metal tongs).
Working in batches of 5 to 8 vegetable pieces at a time, use your left hand to dredge the vegetables in the flour. Shake them to remove excess flour and then use your right hand to dip them into the batter. Carefully lower the battered vegetables into the hot oil and cook until golden in color, around 3 to 5 minutes. Note: smaller pieces will cook more quickly, so adjust the timing as needed. Use your spider skimmer or tongs to transfer the fried vegetables to the paper towel-lined pan and sprinkle immediately with spices.
Continue this process until all your veggies are fried. Transfer them to a large serving dish. Then tell your guests to hurry to the table and serve with toasted tortillas, shredded cabbage, avocado lime cream sauce, fresh cilantro leaves, and lime wedges.