This is a basic tempura batter that can work for many different delicious combinations. I use it for chicken, boneless thighs in particular, but I also make pineapple and bananas for dessert. Soaking the chicken in seltzer tenderizes them, making them even more tender. The biggest secret though, is the temperature of the oil. Maintaining the correct temperature is the key to perfectly fried chicken!
- chicken breasts or legs - 3-4 lbs, deboned, no skin
- seltzer - 2 cups
- sugar - 2 tbsp
- salt - 2 tsp
- flour - 1 cup
- cornstarch - 1 cup
- baking powder - 2 tsp
- paprika - 1 tsp (smoked)
- cayenne pepper - 1/2 tsp
- black pepper - 1/2 tsp
- water - 1 3/4 cup
- canola or peanut oil - 2 quarts, for frying
1. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces, preferably in strips. Mix the seltzer, sugar and salt in a bowl and add chicken. Refrigerate for 1/2 hr, or up to 12 hours. Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the batter in a bowl and refrigerate for 1/2 hr as well.
2. Fill a pot with oil and heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 350 degrees. It's very important to maintain a level of heat between 320 to 350. I suggest using a thermometer that clips onto the side of the pot.
3. While the oil heats, place half the chicken between 2 paper towels and pat dry. Place into the batter. One piece at time, shake off excess batter and drop into pot. Avoid overcrowding, or pieces may stick together. Cook for about 8 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, flipping gently with a fork about halfway through. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a prepared paper towel to drain. Repeat with the other half of the chicken.
Note: Here I serve it with a store bought sweet chili sauce. Add 2 frozen cubes of ginger for another flavor dimension.