The secret to making great tempura is to always mix the dry ingredients into the wet to make a lumpy batter. This goes against the general rule for combining wet and dry ingredients but it’s the trapped air bubbles that make the batter crisp.
400 grams medium asparagus, washed and dried
1 cup soda water, chilled
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cornflour
125 grams self-raising flour
pinch of salt
canola oil for cooking
Lemon and wasabi sauce
1⁄2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1-3 teaspoons wasabi paste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Sweet chilli and lime sauce
1⁄2 cup sweet chilli sauce
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
Batter: Put the soda water in a large bowl and stir in the egg yolk. Combine the cornflour, self-raising flour and salt and gently mix into the soda to make a lumpy batter.
Heat 4 cm of canola oil to 180 ̊C in a heavy-based saucepan or wok. A thermometer is useful here.
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and drag each one through the batter. Let the excess drip off and carefully place in the oil. You want a very thin coating of batter. Cook for 2 minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen towels and place on a cooling rack in a warm oven to keep the batter crisp. Repeat with the remaining asparagus. Reheat the oil between batches if necessary.
Lemon and wasabi sauce: Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Season and refrigerate.
Sweet chilli and lime sauce: Combine the ingredients in a bowl, adjusting with lime juice and fish sauce to taste.
To serve: Serve the asparagus in glasses or containers lined with a cone of baking paper. Serve with the dipping sauces.