Ebi Furai- colossal, breaded, deep fried prawns- became the signature dish of Nagoya thanks to a quip made by the television comedian Tamori at the expense of the city’s dialect and accent. Misunderstanding of this joke led to the nation believing that Nagoya excelled in making the succulent, sweet prawns coated in shatteringly crisp shards of panko, and the city was happy to adopt this modern meibutsu as their speciality. In reality ebi furai was created during the Meiji Restoration period of the late nineteenth century in response to the increasingly popular deep fried yōshoku dishes such as tonkatsu and menchi-katsu that were being served in the larger, metropolitan cities. Traditionally made using Kuruma ebi (Japanese imperial prawns) which can grow to a monstrous thirty centimetres in length, nowadays the more ecologically sustainable black tiger shrimp is used in making this celebration of oversized shellfish.
Breaded, fried prawns have since become one of the most common ingredients for bentō packed lunches, crammed into ebi-sando sandwiches smeared with coleslaw or even served hotdog style in long soft bread rolls topped with creamy tartar sauce. Perhaps our favourite way to eat ebi furai though is paired with another yōshoku bentō staple, the Japanese take on potato salad. Creamier and more tangy than your typical potato salad, this version uses mashed potatoes studded with nuggets of smoked ham, crushed hard boiled eggs, salted cucumbers, and ultra sweet, exploding kernels of corn bound together with the ubiquitous Kewpie mayonnaise and a dash of vinegar. These two dishes make a delicious light meal when combined with some thinly shredded cabbage and a drizzle of the thick Worcestershire-style sauce that goes so well with fried breaded foods, or they work wonderfully well individually as starting points for making a packed lunch.
Poteto Sarada ingredients.
- 750g floury potatoes
- 100g sweet mild onion
- 50g carrot
- 100g cucumber
- 50g smoked ham (we find that German ham works best here and hints at the origins of the salad)
- 50g sweetcorn kernels
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 200ml Japanese mayonnaise (Kewpie brand is the most easily available in the U.K.)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into even-sized pieces, then place in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt and enough cold water to cover the potato by a couple of centimetres. Bring the pan to a boil over a high heat, then cook the potatoes until you can easily insert a knife into one of the chunks. Drain the potatoes well, then return them to the hot pan where they will steam dry in the residual heat.
- While the potatoes are cooking, boil the two eggs in a separate pan for ten minutes then drain and cool. Peel, then mash the eggs with the back of a fork until evenly crushed. Finely chop the onion, mix it with one tablespoon of the rice vinegar in a small dish and set aside for ten minutes. Halve the piece of cucumber along its length then slice it into half moons; mix these with the remaining teaspoon of salt and let them stand for ten minutes so the salt can draw the excess water from the cucumber. Finely chop the carrot and boil it for two to three minutes in a pan of water so it is still firm but has lost its raw crunch, then finally cut the ham into small cubes.
- Once the potatoes are cooled to room temperature, roughly and unevenly mash them so you have a mixture of smooth paste and small chunks of potato. Add the mayonnaise, sugar, black pepper and the remaining half tablespoon of vinegar then stir to combine. Rinse and drain the onions and cucumber slices, squeeze out any excess moisture, and add these along with the egg, sweetcorn, carrots and ham to the potato mixture. Fold all the ingredients through the seasoned mashed potatoes until they are well distributed, then set the salad aside in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- 100ml tomato ketchup
- 40ml Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sanshō (or white pepper)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon karashi (or smooth, hot mustard)
- 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
- Mix all the ingredients except the arrowroot powder together in a small saucepan and slowly bring the mixture to a simmer. Slake the arrowroot in about a tablespoon of cold water, then add it to the hot sauce. Stir the sauce constantly until it thickens which should take about a minute.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool fully before transferring the sauce to a bowl or bottle. The sōsu will store in the fridge for about a month if well sealed.
Ebi Furai ingredients.
- 600g whole raw tiger prawns (we used super-colossal or 6/8 sized prawns)
- approximately 100g panko breadcrumbs
- approximately 100g plain flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon each of salt & black pepper for seasoning
- 750ml – 1 litre vegetable oil for deep frying
- Pour the oil into a heavy based saucepan wide enough to take your prawns, then place over a medium heat and slowly allow it to come to 170ºC.
- Remove the head from the prawns, then carefully peel the shells off the tails except for the last segment and the tail tips (these make a perfect handle for picking up the ebi furai). Run the tip of a sharp knife along the back of each prawn and remove the tract from within, then flip the prawns and make a series of shallow cuts across the belly to prevent the prawns from curling up during cooking. Bend the prawns back on themselves to straighten them out; you can be quite forceful here, but don’t push so hard that you tear them in half. Finally twist off the middle spike at the tip of each tail to release any residual water trapped within the shell.
- Crack the three eggs into a wide bowl then beat thoroughly. Tip the plain flour into another wide bowl and the panko into a third. Season the prawns with the salt and pepper then dip them in the flour, then the egg, then back in the flour and into the egg a second time; finally roll them in the panko, pressing firmly as you go to ensure they are well coated. By dipping the prawns twice in egg and flour you create a batter which helps the breadcrumbs cling securely to the prawn and makes sure that you don’t end up with any gaps in the finished coating.
- Fry the prawns in several batches so as not to overcrowd the pan and lower the oil temperature too much. Hold each prawn by the tip of its tail and gently lay it into the hot oil, fry for about a minute then flip them over and cook for a minute longer or until they are golden brown. Lift the ebi furai out of the oil with a mesh strainer and allow them to rest on a wire rack for two or three minutes so any excess oil can drip off.
- Sprinkle the ebi furai with some fine sea salt and serve up with a generous spoonful of the poteto sarada and a drizzle of the tonkatsu sōsu.
Serves 4 people.