Catfish Tempura With Dashi Tamari Dipping Sauce

Catfish Tempura

I have fond memories from my youth of catching channel catfish in a neighborhood retention pond. Back in those days, catching catfish was only an after school hobby. Little did I know that later in life I would come back to this common catfish with a new found respect. Farm-raised catfish are very affordable, a pound of nuggets can cost as low as $4.99 depending where you purchase from. Catfish are also relatively healthy, They contain large amounts of Protein, Vitamin D, and Potassium, among other vitamins and Minerals ( Catfish tempura is a cross-section of conscious, sustainable fishing and indulging in cherished culinary traditions.

Not all catfish are created equal. Catfish can be a great fish option, but it is important to keep an eye out and purchase farmed fish specifically from the US if possible. US cat-fisheries are highly regulated and managed in an environmentally healthy way (Seaver). In addition, they are raised on a primarily vegetarian diet including rice and soy beans. This diet helps control the flavor of the fish and eliminates the "muddy taste" of some wild caught catfish. Foreign caught or raised catfish like Swai, Tra, Basa, River or Striped catfish are not raised in the same regulated conditions as those of the US
(, so quality may vary significantly.

Corn-breaded and deep fried catfish have a rooted tradition in the the Southern United States. The popularity of this fish only continues to grow in the United States, reaching far beyond Mississippi and Georgia. I wanted to take this tradition of fried catfish and combine it with another frying tradition, that of tempura. Tempura is a regarded style of airy deep frying which is generally associated with Japanese cuisine. Interestingly enough tempura's origins lie in Portuguese cuisine. Portuguese missionaries introduced the tempura style to Japan back in the 16th century C.E.(Moreida).

Despite appearing as a seemingly simple preparation, tempura really does involve a heightened attention to technique. One of the keys to a light and airy tempura is using very cold, carbonated water. When cold water is added to the other elements of the tempura batter it creates a more viscous mixture and holds onto the fish better. The carbonated liquid allows more gas in between the gluten networks for a lighter batter. Finally, by working quickly and not over-mixing the batter, the flour particles will not have enough time to fully soak up the liquid, the result is a crispy and uneven and lacy crust (McGee 214).

Every fried food deserves a good sauce. A sauce like soy sauce or ponzu would work well here, but I wanted to make a sauce based off of the Japanese tentsuyu, which is generally considered an all purpose sauce. The preparation is pretty simple and the result is a blend of sweet, salty, savory, spicy. I would suggest preparing the dashi (first sea stock) in advance. If you are unfamiliar with dashi, there are variances on stock but at it's most basic form it's kelp and dried tuna flakes. Dashi, and other Japanese stock recipes can be viewed in This Dashi Guide.

Catfish Tempura with Tempura Dipping Sauce

Masaharu Morimoto Tempura Batter (The New Art of Japanese Cooking)

  • 2 Large egg yolks
  • 1/2 c Vegetable oil
  • 1 & 1/2 c Seltzer water, chilled
  • 2 c Tempura flour (All-purpose can be substituted)
Cooking Directions
  1. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl
  2. Slowly whisk in the oil until blended
  3. Add the tempura flower and stir with chopsticks until just combined. (residual flour on top is okay, Don't overmix!)

Dashi Tamari Tempura Dipping Sauce

  • 1 c Dashi
  • 2 T Tamari(Use 2.5-3 T if substituting soy sauce
  • 2 T Hoisin sauce
  • 2 T Ginger, minced
  • 2 T Daikon, minced
Cooking Directions
  1. Mince ginger and daikon.
  2. Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan over medium heat.
  3. Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium.

Catfish Tempura

  • 1 pound Catfish nuggets
  • Tempura batter
  • Enough High heat oil to fill a heavy bottom pan 3-5 inches
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oil to reach 350-370F
  2. Dust catfish nuggets in AP flour
  3. Quickly dredge nuggets in tempura batter and lightly drop in the oil
  4. Cook 3-5 minutes or until the nuggets are floating and the batter is golden brown.
  5. Transfer catfish to a paper towel and dry off as much oil as possible.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
Total Time: 30 min
Citations and Further Readings:
  • "Catfish Recommendations." Monterey Bay Aquarium, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <>. McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking. New: Scribner, 1984. 214. Print. 
  • Moreida, Takashi. "Tracking Down Tempura." Ed. Moreida. Kikkoman, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <>. 
  • Morimoto, Masaharu. Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking. N.p.: DK Publishing, 2007. 260. Print. 
  • "Fish, catfish, channel, wild, raw." Nutrition Facts, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <>.  
  • Seaver, Barton. For Cod and Country. New York: Sterling Epicure, 2011. 27. Print. 
  • Yoshizuka, Setsuko. "Tempura Dipping Sauce.", n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2014. <>.
Photo's by Jordan Henline


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