I must admit that I rarely do much deep frying these days, since it tends to adversely affect the waistline. Still I do love crispy, light fried things on occasion. Deep-frying in batter is a rather tricky thing though, since it’s so easy to get it all wrong and turn out a soggy, heavy mess. The always interesting Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking  and other must-have books, has a new article in the New York Times  about two deep-frying techniques that yield crispy crusts. For one, you need a fish with its skin intact - not too practical for most of us who must buy fish from a supermarket or so. The other method is one I saw in last year’s Heston Blumenthal BBC series  - making a beer batter for the fish part of fish and chips with half beer, half vodka. He also uses some rice flour, and (the don’t-dare-call-it-molecular-gastronomy part) a syphon to foam it up with carbon dioxide.
I also saw the vodka method in an Ito-ke no Shokutaku (Japanese)  a.k.a. the Urawaza program, episode last year. (Unfortunately the accompanying article is no longer available on their web site.) In their case they replaced all the ice water in a typical tempura batter mixture with vodka. They swore it didn’t taste at all alcoholic. I would like to try this someday, though it would make for rather expensive tempura!
A more recent Ito-ke episode (the article is still online, for now (Japanese) ) uses egg white in place of the normal whole egg in tempura batter. They say that this makes the batter very light and crispy. Their suggestion: 1 egg white with enough additional ice cold water to bring it up to 100cc, and mix it lightly (not beaten until foamy, just mixed) with 50g of low-gluten (cake, ‘weak’, etc.) flour. I’m wondering how it would be if you mixed the egg white with at least part vodka, and the regular flour with rice flour. Is it going to be so light it’s going to float off the plate?
Incidentally, I think I’ve said this before but my new favorite food blog is Harold McGee’s very own News for Curious Cooks , where he not only links to any new articles he’s written various publications, but posts smaller bites of information about various food-science related subjects.