Monday, 28 May 2012

Chive Flower Tempura


Saturday saw a random surge of people at the farmer's market, people who were passing by on their way to the Chelsea Flower Show, one of the major events of the British calendar. Even before I'd rung the bell to signal the start of market, people were eagerly stroking and eyeing the sweet pea flowers and the other pretty delicate blooms in their myriad of wedding pastel shades.

I've never understood the way most women fawn over flowers. I do agree they are beautiful, and beautiful things are good to look at, but then what? I remember back in my giggly schoolgirl days, receiving roses for Valentine's day and being at a loss at what to do with them. I know many of my friends get all excited and stick them into makeshift vases of water, to try to extend them a little past their short life span; I, unfortunately, just stuck them into the bin. I just don't get the whole fuss over flowers, they're pretty but also pretty useless. I know, I'm probably the most unromantic girl out there. I'm not a horrible plant-hater though, I love plants, the way they bring colour and life to the earth; I especially love them if they can be eaten too. And so the only flowers that got me excited at the market were the edible ones.
While people were tucking precious bouquets into their shopping baskets, I was happily stuffing a bundle of chive flowers into mine. Chive flowers are just chives that have blossomed. The flower has gorgeous purple pom-pom petals, and if you sniff it, you get a decidedly un-floral and unfeminine scent of onions. I popped one into my mouth raw-- the familiar flavour of chives/spring onions, but on a much milder level. I decided I liked it.

I've lost all urge to cook or bake recently, because someone up there decided to switch on the sun and it's been ridiculously hot the past few days, so I made a simple salad with them first, tossed in a light vinegarette and sprinkled with some sesame seeds. Really quick but really good. Also really good in ridiculously hot weather, is ice-cold cider (I cannot bring myself to like beer) with a handful of crispy something, in this case, purple onion-y blossoms encased in a light tempura batter. The idea is not mine, I saw it on Veggie Belly's blog. I followed the absolutely brilliant way she did it, just holding the ends and dipping the blossoms into the oil. My tempura batter, however, comes from here.



CHIVE FLOWER TEMPURA
Ingredients
1 bundle of chive flowers
1/2 cup of fine rice flour*
1/2 cup of ice-cold* beer or cider  (or fizzy water. But if you happen to have a bottle open anyway..)
1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt + a pinch, to taste
oil for frying*

For the dipping sauce
good soy sauce (naturally and traditionally fermented)
rice vinegar
some chive flower petals or snipped chives

Method
1. Make sure your chive flowers are dry. Season with a little salt. Prepare your dipping sauce now so the chive flavour can infuse.
2. Mix up your batter just before you're ready to get frying, you don't want to leave the batter to rest or settle. The tempura batter should feel quite runny, much runnier than a pancake batter, and don't worry about lumps as it should be a little lumpy.
3. When the oil is hot (190 degrees celsius), dip your flowers into the batter, holding the other end, and then straight into the oil for no more than a few seconds. (I got the hang of it after the first few slightly more, er, coloured ones.) Do only a few at a go as too many will lower the temperature of the oil and they might end up sticking together.
4. Leave to drain on a rack. When all are done, serve up with the dipping sauce, and enjoy with friends and cold beer/cider/Pimm's.

I've seen people use normal wheat flour, but rice flour makes it extra crisp, plus share-friendly with gluten-intolerant friends if you skip the beer.
* Ice-cold is the keyword. Many recipes just use water, but something fizzy will give it that extra airiness and crispness. I think it might be less authentic though. 
* Saturated fats like pastured lard, coconut oil, palm oil are much better suited for  healthy deep-frying as they don't go rancid at high temperatures. Groundnut oil is alright too. No vegetable oil, and don't waste your extra virgin olive oil on this.



I've not made or eaten much tempura to consider myself an expert in the Japanese art of frying, but this one was crisp and light as air. What's even better is the burst of chive flavour and aroma when you bite into the inside. It reminded me of some tempura-ed spring onions I once tried, but because the chive flowers have a tender fluffier texture, and come in a convenient popcorn-like shape, they make for a mouth-popping-friendly experience. These went quick.



That's the way I like my flowers.


This is going into this month's Floral-Inspired Tea Time Treats, hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.

48 comments:

  1. What a brilliant idea! I used to add these to all of my summer salads, fresh from the garden. What an interesting way of eating them - and they still look so pretty!

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  2. wow, that's a unique recipe :) I love your ideas :)

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  3. Love the beautiful pictures! And the idea of chive flower tempura....it sounds and looks delicious, definitely must try someday :)

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  4. PRETTY EDIBLE FLOWERS! I love the combination! Who knew! I must come to the market some time!

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  5. Amazing how you come up with such delicate flavors and combos..... chive flower tempura sounds so delicious and light!!

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  6. Blown away again! I'm getting to really look forward to your posts. (With as much time an energy that I can muster to look forward to something :) The other day I was remembering how as a kid I liked to dip a spring onion in salt and eat it straight up. I would be all over this!

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  7. What a pretty post Shu Han...I think that I would like my flowers this way too. Like you although I've eaten tempura many times have never made it before. You make it sound so simple and I love that you can use rice flour. Courgette flowers would be lovely this way too...but it will be a long time before my little courgette plant flowers.

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  8. Agreed! The only good flower is an edible one :) And even better if it's deep fried! Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could discover yours- I particularly enjoyed your "about" section. Working at a farmer's market sounds pretty darn cool!

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  9. Your photos are beautiful..I've never thought of eating them this way, what a brilliant idea!

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  10. Shu Han, I feel as if it was me speaking: I hate and have always hated cut flowers (even flowers on my balcony: they would take the space of edible plants and herbs!). All my close friends and family know (I have repeated enough to make them remember forever) that flowers are THE thing they should never ever bring me. A good bottle of wine is most welcome, but I wouldn't say no to a box of my favourite chocolates...
    Last year I had at least a dozen of chives flowers on my balcony. And guess what I did with them??? Tempura! Unfortunately they didn't look as beautiful as yours, the flowers were less "compact" so it was less crunchy. I must try it once more this year! And start tempura season soon (tempura seems to be a typically summer treat for me).

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    1. You hate flowers AND did tempura too? Wow we really do think alike! Yes, I always don't know what to do with flowers that people bring me. They just..sit there in the vase for a few days but eventually they wilt away. HMM. tempura is definitely a summer treat, it's something about the sun and the cold drinks isn't it!

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  11. What a gorgeous idea, I have a garden full of chive flowers at the moment and though I love them in salads and as a stuffing for ravioli I never manage to use them all up - shall give this a whirl!

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    1. You have some awesome ideas yourself! I want to try them in ravioli!

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  12. That must be the prettiest thing to eat ever! Beautiful and delicious no doubt.

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  13. Very interesting! I would love to try some chive flower tempura.

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  14. Hazel: Thanks! Oh, it's great that you have them growing right in your garden!

    Marta: Thank you! I just went to look at your site, your ideas are brilliant too!

    J: Thanks J, I hope you try!

    dishpiglets: Pimlico, every Saturday morning from 9 to 1, see you there.

    Malli: Thanks malli, I haven't experimented much with tempura before, so I don't know if this is the definitive recipe, but i really liked it!

    Natali: Aw, thank you! You must be the weirdest kid ever.

    Debby: You're lucky to even have a courgette plant! When it flowers, I'll be waiting to see what you do with it! Courgette flowers are so bloody expensive.

    Lawyer loves lunch: It's the best job ever (:

    love2dine: Thanks!

    Jenny: Thank you, credits entirely to veggie belly though!

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  15. i understand from a practical standpoint that cut flowers are pretty useless, they die and if you don't throw them out right away, the rot smell can be overpowering. but i still adore them. i have taken to picking blossoms from trees or bushes or even the weeds from cracked sidewalks for added brightness on an otherwise colorless table setting.

    i can't tell you how absolutely beautiful these chive blossom tempura is and how incredibly excited i am over them. at the asian market that i go to sometimes, the chive blossoms are not sold bloomed, they're still tightly budded. if they put them in water, will they blossom?

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    1. That's exactly how I feel I SHOULD be responding to flowers. But I just can't muster the same enthusiasm. About chive blossoms, I think they might continue to bloom if they were cut very fresh but I'm not entirely sure, give it a go!

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  16. Shu Han, I love this post - wow. Your styling is gorgeous and the recipe is made of the stuff I dream of - fresh ingredients + simple to make. Well done my friend :) (p.s thank you for your note on my blog xo)

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  17. A FABULOUS entry, and I could eat these any day of the week for tea.....with a glass of elderflower presse! Thanks so much for entering these into May's Tea Time Treats! Karen

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  18. Your photos alone have me sold on this idea. I've been waiting for the chive flowers to finish, so I can cut the plants back and get more leaves to cook with. Now I can use the flowers too - looking forward to trying this.

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    1. Ooh, I didn't know you could keep cutting them back! That's an endless supply of chive and chive flowers then! Maybe I should grow myself a pot instead.. Let me know how it goes!

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  19. I agree about the cut flowers thing... they are pretty useless! This is a fantastic idea! I've never actually seen chive flowers, they look so cool (and tasty).

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  20. shu han, i am so glad i have found someone like me. i don't like flowers being presented to me but i definitely like eating them. battered courgette flowers taste delicious. and i also love rose petal scented jams. in pakistan we make gulkund which is a preserve of rose petals. i love your idea of tempura'ed chive flowers though.

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    1. courgette flowers are so expensive though! I think people get a lot more excited by them than they do chive flowers, which is a bonus for me (: the gulkund sounds fascinating. Do you have a recipe/a jar of it to share? ;p

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  21. What a great idea - I love it. My mother has, or had at least, a big chive bush in her herb garden - I'll have to tell her about this. Sounds like such a wonderful use of chive flours which might normally get chucked.

    I always use peanut oil for frying myself - the smoke point is very high apparently, though not as high as coconut oil I think, and I don't get an apartment reeking of "fried food" afterwards. It seems people are really against palm oil at the moment... at least in France they are. Seems like margarines and spreads are making a big thing of saying "Look, no palm oil"... what's that about?

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    1. Some people have issues with palm oil because of all the bad press about its saturated fat, but it's actually a misconception.

      Read here: http://undergroundwellness.com/the-palm-oil-miracle/
      and listen to the whole interview if you have time! A little teaser: They discuss

      * How the research on the link between saturated fat and heart disease was conducted on trans fats
      * The BIG difference between vitamin E tocopherols and tocotrienols
      * How the squalene in palm oil protects you from all forms of radiation
      * How palm oil is far more eco-friendly than soy and corn oils
      * Why palm oil is actually good for the heart, as it is loaded with coenzyme Q10
      * How environmental rumors surrounding palm oil are untrue

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  22. The other day I saw chive flower in my mom house but the flower colour is white, I have never seen purple chive flower, so beautiful ! I think I will just admire it rather than deep fry it, hehehe..

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    1. hehe, you see, the problem with me is I can't ever just admire flowers for how they look... I mean, i do, but if you can't do something useful with it (aka EAT!) I get bored of it after a while.. Funny! I've never seen a white chive flower! Different variety maybe?

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  23. I'm hosting a giveaway over at my blog and would love for you to stop by and participate.

    http://www.myhobbielobbie.com/2012/05/my-200th-blog-post-and-my-1st-ever.html

    Looking forward to seeing you there.

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  24. Love this! Saw it over at Karen's and had to come over and see the whole post. Stunning. And I love the top tips at the end. For me, I like corn flour (as I always have it on hand) and I like to use ice-cold soda water for my tempura. I've got some 'forager's fritters' (nettle and wild garlic) on my blog somewhere, using just these ingredients. It was nice to see your savoury recipe on a decidedly sweet tea time treats round-up. PS All of my chives are just coming into bloom here in not so sunny Scotland. And they are all purple, like yours.

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    1. Aw thanks so much kellie! Do you use just corn flour with the ice cold soda water? I've seen recipes using a mix of wheat and corn flour, but never alone, I wonder how that works! I haven't tried tempura batters enough to say for sure that one is better than the other, I'd love to give yours a go. Your forager's fritters sound so brilliant, love everythign about it, the foraged ingredients, the fritters, the alliteration haha. Yay for your blooming chive flowers too, they'll get there in the end!!

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  25. And thank you Shu Han for the lovely comment on my humble wee blog. I don't tempura a heck of a lot (I have an over-40's waist line to consider!) but I did use use gluten-free flour in that recipe, but sometimes, for less heavy/wet ingredients I will use just cornflour. Always the cold soda water though. But like I said, I'm not a regular partaker of fried things so I would always defer to someone more experienced than I. Really like your pretty blog!

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    1. What humble wee blog! Your blog is fabulous! I don't tempura a lot either, which is why I'm curious to try your recipe! Thanks kellie (:

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  26. What a creative way to eat chive flowers - love it. I add them to salads or to decorate dishes, but this makes them shine in their own right AND they'd be great for picnics - lollipop chives!

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    1. I'm not sure they would stay crisp if you bring them for a picnic though, but I do liek the idea of lollipop chives hehe! That's what I thought too when I eat them!

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  27. This is so interesting and beautiful!!! I think I've never seen chive flower... such a pretty flower for veggie! Tempura is a very nice way to capture the flavor. Oh it's like Zucchini flower tempura that I've seen before. Beautiful presentation Shu Han!!

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  28. Hi Shu Han,

    Absolutely fascinating post-really must give this a go as I have lots of chive flowers in the garden at the moment...

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  29. The chive flowers are lovely. Always tempura. Fabulous presentation. Love the composition of all your photos.

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  30. Lucky you to be able to find chive flowers in the market! Brilliant ideas to deep fry. I think this would be great entertaining appetizer for the guest. Conversational food. Love it!

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  31. I just LOVE this idea, I actually didn't know one could eat chive flowers, and I was about to cut mine off, shame on me! Now I know what to do. Beautiful photography too, can't wait to try it.

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  32. nami: it is gorgeous isn't it! zucchini flowers are so expensive though.. :(

    green dragonette: yay let me know how it goes (:

    quay po: thank you!!

    holly: I do feel lucky! Haha if only..we jjust ate, no intellectual discussions..

    helene: yay! i'm glad i saved your flowers!

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  33. Interesting, I tried eating everything and anything but never thought of flowers ! Thanks for the idea. Nice photography !

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    1. Thank you! Yes you can eat flowers, they taste great, and look really pretty too!

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  34. Hi there!

    My name is Rebecca and I'm one of the Editors at HuffPost Taste. I'm working on a roundup of some of our favorite tempura recipes, and would love to feature a photo from this amazing post, pending your permission. We'll link back to your original post for the recipe.

    Would you mind just letting me know whether you'd like us to credit the photo to your name or your blog's name? You can reach me at rebecca.orchant (at) huffingtonpost.com. Thanks very much!

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  35. Hi Shu Han! I just posted about your recipe... I hope you don't mind :)

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