Making tempura batter is notoriously tricky business, but KCET's own America's Test Kitchen came up with a solution that apparently keeps the batter at exactly the right consistency: vodka. Seeing as vodka helps out in all kinds of important ways, I can't say I'm entirely surprised.
Serve this with a dipping sauce -- bottled tempura sauce is available in most markets, or you can just whip something up with soy and ginger -- and enjoy!
3 quarts vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds colossal shrimp, peeled and deveined (8 to 12 per pound), tails left on
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 large egg
1 cup vodka
1 cup seltzer water
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. In large, heavy Dutch oven fitted with clip-on candy thermometer, heat oil over high heat to 385 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes.
While oil heats, make 2 shallow cuts about ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart on underside of each shrimp. Whisk flour and cornstarch together in large bowl. Whisk egg and vodka together in second large bowl. Whisk seltzer water into egg mixture.
When oil reaches 385 degrees, pour liquid mixture into bowl with flour mixture and whisk gently until just combined (it is OK if small lumps remain). Submerge half of shrimp in batter. Using tongs, remove shrimp from batter 1 at a time, allowing excess batter to drip off, and carefully place in oil (temperature should now be at 400 degrees). Fry, stirring with chopstick or wooden skewer to prevent sticking, until light brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Once paper towels absorb excess oil, place shrimp on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.
Return oil to 400 degrees, about 4 minutes, and repeat with remaining shrimp. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce.
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