Recipe: shiso spicy tuna tempura (dragon scales)
It was getting a little ridiculous. My friends had moved into their new house in Boulder several months ago and I still hadn’t been by to pay them a visit. Summer was pretty cray cray and fall is even more so. If not now, then when? It’s not like I’m the only person who is busy – they are busy too. Everyone is busy. I guess what makes friends so special is that an hour spent together in the midst of all the busy recharges you and leaves you with a warm fuzzy glow for several days.
beautiful family in their wonderful new home
Their adorable baby is no longer a baby but an adorable little boy. Nichole and Luke have put so much work into their house on their own (like laying new plumbing to rearrange their kitchen – whoa!). It was really exciting for me, a DIY-wannabe, to see what two resourceful and creative DIY people can do! Then Nichole said, “Wanna see the garden?” How she finds the time to work, raise Mr. Cutiepie (my nickname for him), remodel the house, AND garden, I just do not know. All that while remaining her hysterically funny and sassy self to boot.
nichole picks red shiso for me
When Nichole said she had red shiso, I did a blink-blink and then a double take. Shiso? Ever since Jeremy and I went to The Lobar in Crested Butte for my birthday, I’ve been wanting to recreate the dragon scales appetizer we enjoyed. It was made with shiso leaves, and the only place I knew of to purchase shiso leaves is on the far side of Denver in Aurora (H-Mart). That’s a drive in sucky traffic that I didn’t want to make. And here was my friend asking me if I would like some red shiso from her garden! Love that girl.
lovely shiso without driving to denver
I’ve only ever had shiso in or with sushi. My favorite sushi chef, Fumito, in South Pasadena would tell us that it is good for your health. When I’ve purchased shiso leaves at H-Mart in the past, they were labeled as sesame leaves or Perilla and they were huge, like as big as my extended hand. These shiso leaves were smaller and a gorgeous purple color, and talk about local sourcing. Now we’re cooking with gas! Here’s what you’ll need to make dragon scales:
shiso leaves, maguro (sashimi grade tuna), mayonnaise, sriracha (not pictured: masago and togarashi)
tempura batter: flour, egg, ice water, baking soda
tempura dipping sauce: mirin, soy sauce, dashi, sugar
The reason the masago (capelin roe) and togarashi (Japanese chili seasoning) aren’t in the picture is because I forgot to buy them. I wasn’t expecting to make this and scrambled at the last minute to get what I needed based on memory. But I do recommend including those in your recipe should you decide to make this (and really, you should).
mixing the tempura batter
make the spicy tuna
stir in the sriracha
There are two ways you can make this appetizer. The proper way is to first tempura fry the shiso leaves, then sandwich some spicy tuna and masago between two fried leaves and season with togarashi. That’s what we had in Crested Butte at The Lobar. But, I know not everyone can deal with the raw tuna, so you can alternatively sandwich the tuna between two fresh leaves of shiso and then tempura fry the whole thing (the masago is optional).
put enough spicy tuna in there so the two leaves stick
get them all ready
No matter how you do it, the trick to frying the individual leaves or the whole shebang is to dip and coat thoroughly, then quickly let the excess drip off and place it in the hot oil. Okay wait, there is another trick if you are frying the individual shiso leaves… If you drop it in by holding the stem of the leaf, it will probably fold on itself and fry that way. Boo! But if you hold the shiso leaf by the very tip of the leaf (you may have to hold one side out from sticking to itself with the other hand) as you lower it into the oil, it tends to fry flat, which is what you want.
dip in the tempura batter
draining the fried shiso spicy tuna tempura (you’d do the same with the individual leaves)
We tried them both ways and while the cooked version was good, the raw spicy tuna version was phenomenally good! I highly recommend the raw version. This is also something you could prepare ahead of time for entertaining. You can tempura fry the leaves and just warm them in a low oven before assembling and serving.
the cooked version of shiso spicy tuna tempura
the raw (and better, in my opinion) version – aka dragon scales
Shiso Spicy Tuna Tempura (aka Dragon Scales)
inspired by The Lobar in Crested Butte, Colorado
8 oz. sashimi grade tuna (maguro)
1-2 tbsps mayonnaise
sriracha to taste
~24 shiso leaves, washed and patted dry
1/4 cup masago or tobiko (capelin or flying fish roe), optional for the raw version
1 cup ice water
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
tempura dipping sauce
1 cup dashi stock
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sugar
Make the spicy tuna filling: Chop the raw tuna and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise until desired consistency. Add sriracha sauce to taste (make this as spicy or unspicy as you like).
Make the tempura batter: Combine the ice water and the beaten egg in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda until blended. Pour the dry mix into the wet ingredients and stir together. It’s okay if it is lumpy. Store the batter in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Make the tempura dipping sauce: Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and set aside.
Frying and assembly: There are two ways to make this. The first way is to have the spicy tuna raw. The second way is to have the spicy tuna cooked. Either way, heat two inches of vegetable oil in a deep saucepan to 350°F.
First way (raw tuna): Dip a shiso leaf in the tempura batter so it is completely coated. I find it helps maintain the shape of the leaf if you hold it by the tip (not the stem) and lower it into the hot oil. Repeat with a few more leaves, but don’t crowd them in the pan. When the batter turns a light golden color, flip the leaves and fry until the other side is golden in color. This takes less than a minute. Remove the shiso leaves from the oil and set on paper towels or a cooling rack to drain. When all of the leaves are done, take one leaf and spread a tablespoon of spicy tuna filling on it. Spread a 1/2 teaspoon of fish roe on the tuna (optional). Sandwich the filling with a second tempura shiso leaf. Serve with tempura dipping sauce. Sprinkle togarashi (Japanese chili pepper condiment) over the appetizers before serving (optional).
Second way (cooked tuna): Drop a tablespoon of the spicy tuna in the center of a shiso leaf. Sandwich the tuna with a second shiso leaf. Holding the sandwich by the stems, carefully dip the entire thing into the tempura batter, making sure it is entirely coated. Gently lower it into the hot oil and let fry until light golden in color. Flip and fry another 20-30 seconds. Remove to a paper towel or a cooling rack to drain. Repeat for the rest of the shiso leaves. Serve with tempura dipping sauce. Optional: Sprinkle togarashi (Japanese chili pepper condiment) over the appetizers before serving. Makes approximately 12 (depends on how many leaves you have, how big they are, and how much tuna you use for each pair).