29 Aug2007


You can count this dish as one of my failed experiments, albeit still edible. The objective was to replicate a side order dish that we used to have at a fairly well-known Italian restaurant in New York in the 1980’s called Patsy’s… fried zucchini. What used to arrive at the table was a platter piled high with very thin matchsticks of zucchini, coated in a light batter and fried until crisp, but still blond (not too golden). It was sprinkled with generous amounts of salt and given a last minute spritz of freshly squeezed lemon just before eating it. It seemed an oxymoron to achieve a crisp outcome considering the high water content of a typical zucchini, but somehow they got it right most of the time. It was like eating healthy french fries; or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I had a strange hankering for this dish last week so I attempted to make my own version…


First I made a relatively thin-ish tempura style batter with flour eggs and milk. Next, I used a mandoline to make neat pieces of zucchini that were a bit bigger than matchstick size. I did not use the center of the zucchini where the seeds are and focused more on the skin and inner centimeter or so of the flesh. Next, I decided that salting the zucchini and letting it release some of its water in a colander would be a good idea, so I did that for about 30 minutes and a LOT of liquid was extracted from the zucchini. I then dried off the zucchini gently on some paper towels, then in small batches dipped them into the batter and deep fried them for a minute or slightly more and transferred to more paper towels to drain them off…

The results were a bit damp and mushy, if you know what I mean. While there were bits of crisp-ish-ness, overall they were like wet tempura. They tasted okay, they just didn’t have the lightness and crunch I was seeking, and they had a tendency to clump together. So what went wrong? I don’t know for sure but here are some guesses: 1. I used zucchini that were too old; unlike young lean baby zuchs, the older ones can get, well, a bit pulpy and wrinkly. 2. Maybe our local zucchinis are just that much more watery. 3. Maybe I cut them too big? Hard to imagine since I was already using a mandoline and the fine setting 4. My batter was too thick, too wet or too doughy. 5. Maybe they just dredged the zucchini in flour instead of using a batter? 6. My oil was too hot, too cool? 7. The humidity in the air (at say 97% that day) spelled disaster no matter what. 7. Maybe I should double fry like fries, but I sincerely doubt this and 8. Maybe I should freeze the zucchini before frying it?… What do you think?


Since I was fooling around with the zucchini, I decided to quickly “mandoline” a carrot and some sweet potato (kamote) and did a mixed vegetable fry. The carrots came out the crispest of them all (no surprise there), and the kamote was delicious, but limp. All together, they made an interesting mixture, and I fooled myself into thinking I actually ate a vegetarian meal…though swimming in fat!



  1. tulipfleurs says:

    Now I’ll know what to do when I have zucchini left-over from baking my zucchini bread. Your fried zucchini still looks scrumptious and I love the “green” platter! :-) It sounds like you were having a veggie tempura fest, MM! :-) BTW . . . why is it that I’m always hungry after viewing your site? :-) And I just had lunch too! Lastly, as I won’t repeat myself . . . I always want to “lick” my computer monitor too! Too bad there is no such thing as “smell-o-vision”, huh? :-)

    Aug 29, 2007 | 4:13 am


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  3. starbuxadix says:

    i think it helps if both the batter and zucchini are cold. my mom is able to make the pieces crispy everytime she makes vegetable tempura (except for eggplant and tofu – which stays soft in the middle)…

    – she uses ice or very cold water for the batter and wash the cut veggies in iced water too before drying in paper towels. her ratio: 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, 2 cups water and 2 cups flour. salt and pepper goes to the batter and she add some lemon zest.
    – just let the pieces cook in small batches and stir/turn once if necessary or not at all. (when the bowl of the batter starts to sweat which means the batter is starting to get warm, my mom place it on an ice bath)

    a shortcut that may work too is that we use to cook shrimp chips – dredge the pieces in flour (seasoned with salt and pepper) and dip in beaten egg white right before frying.

    goodluck in your next attempt, MM. :)

    Aug 29, 2007 | 5:40 am

  4. bijin says:

    i think it’s the milk in your batter. when i make tempura, there’s never milk. try adding a bit of cornstarch also.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 5:59 am

  5. Vic says:

    Maybe you should lightly coat the zucchini with flour before dipping them into the batter, or just try frying them after dredging in flour

    Aug 29, 2007 | 6:27 am

  6. Alicia says:

    Maybe you should try flour, eggs and ice water instead of milk like I have been told to do by a tempura chefs. I am speculating here but it could of been the milk? I was also instructed to incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones so in this case that would poring the water and eggs into the flour and when available to fry in sesame oil and to keep the temperature of the oil constant. I hope this is helpful.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 7:13 am

  7. eatit1s says:

    I agree…ice-cold batter and no milk. How about beer?
    Also, the oil temperature should be about 350F/180C.
    Good luck!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 7:20 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Ohh, thank you, I am liking this no milk thing. And yes, ice cold batter is making sense… Will have to give it another go soon…

    Aug 29, 2007 | 7:43 am

  9. Mia says:

    I agree with eatit1s’ suggestion re beer. Some people use 7-Up. They say the bubbles are the secret to a crisp batter. Like what they use for beer-battered fish and chips :)

    Aug 29, 2007 | 8:15 am

  10. linda says:

    I’ve done this many times before and it has always been crisp.I always dredge my veg with cornflour and put it in batter and fry. I use soda water with my batter.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 8:52 am

  11. misao says:

    i just use ice-cold water, flour and a little salt for tempura batter (no egg).

    Aug 29, 2007 | 8:57 am

  12. CecileJ says:

    “The carrots came out the crispest of them oil” Haha, was that a “pun intended”?

    Aug 29, 2007 | 9:11 am

  13. Myra P. says:

    CecileJ, i caught that too :) But instead of assuming a typo (gasp), I credited MM with some wit, lol.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 9:17 am

  14. Marketman says:

    Cecile and Myra, it was a typo :), it has been changed, thanks!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 9:50 am

  15. Mel says:

    A secret of tempura making is to use very very cold soda water for making the batter. Dehydrating the zuchini with salt and keeping it cold before the dip into the soda water spiked batter should make it crisp. How about another go at it?

    Aug 29, 2007 | 3:14 pm

  16. joy says:

    hi MM,
    batter should be placed in the ref to chill.. this helps in making the zuchini more crispy. this is what they do with krispy kang kong too :)

    Aug 29, 2007 | 5:02 pm

  17. millet says:

    yes, salting the zucchini at least an hour before frying, then rinsing and draining it very well (between paper towels) will help make it crisp. also, i use ice cubes and ice water in the batter, and very hot oil for frying. i also use a mixture of all-purpose flour and cornstarch (equal parts) for the batter, and no milk.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 6:38 pm

  18. Elaine says:

    Hi MM

    when i make batter for tempura i use extremely cold soda water. It helps with the crispyness and lightness of the final result. Also, for my tempura i use rice flour.

    For a slightly different end result, try sprinkling with garlic salt instead of just regular salt. I tried this on calamari the other week and it turned out AWESOME.

    Aug 29, 2007 | 7:48 pm

  19. maybahay says:

    i have never used milk for tempura batter. i use soda water and ice cubes in the mix. also, try not to mix the batter too much. a quick stir with chopsticks should be enough, leaving small lumps of flour to add texture in your fried vegetables. have fun doing the second round ;-)

    Aug 29, 2007 | 7:50 pm

  20. maybahay says:

    oops, and no egg!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 7:52 pm

  21. Joey says:

    Is it just me or did anyone else think of good old ‘okoy’ as you read this blog? Nothing beats this Pinoy snack with suka/bawang/sili! Saraaaaap!

    Aug 29, 2007 | 9:45 pm

  22. brownedgnat says:

    Agree with Linda and Starbuxadix–corn flour works best. However, I add half corn flour, half regular flour. It comes out quite crispy.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 12:11 am

  23. trishlovesbread says:

    Rice flour also makes for a lighter, crisper coating.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 1:40 am

  24. Ebba Myra says:

    oww, I never thought of why my veggies sometimes are crispy, most of the times not.. I have learned so much reading the input of other bloggers. I will follow their advice and use ice cold soda water.. but I think I will stay with the Japanese Rice Flour crumbs for my batter and a little corn flour.. no eggs, no milk.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 4:31 am

  25. Ted says:

    So what’s a soda water? People from the Southeastern part of the U.S. call their softdrinks Soda water. Is it a club soda or carbonated water?

    Aug 30, 2007 | 4:49 am

  26. maybahay says:

    hi ted. club soda and carbonated water are the same thing. basically, water fizzed up with carbon dioxide.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 6:36 am

  27. maybahay says:

    sorry, and yes, soda water = club soda

    Aug 30, 2007 | 6:38 am

  28. sister says:

    You might try just flour with salt and pepper.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 8:14 am

  29. linda says:

    I just remembered reading a while ago about Patsy’s restaurant and it was Frank Sinatra’s fave eatery and he had his private room upstairs where he brought his pals.

    Btw, I always slice my zucchinis’a tad thicker and cook it almost straight away.

    Aug 30, 2007 | 1:28 pm

  30. Beng says:

    Suggestion: why not fry them again? I tried it before with french fries which I made from scratch (fresh potatoes). It came
    out (the 2nd frying) like Piknik (those canned french fries).

    Sep 2, 2007 | 4:26 pm

  31. cwid says:

    You might want to try this South Beach friendly zucchini recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen. I haven’t tried this yet but it does look delicious and less fatty.

    September 18, 2007 entry

    Sep 19, 2007 | 11:20 pm

  32. cwid says:

    I think all the previous suggestions are good especially making sure the tempura batter is cold. The other thing that you might want to do is to make sure the zucchini slices are pressed down with a plate after you salt it so that all the liquid is drained out. Or better still, wrap the whole thing in a tea towel and squeeze and wring until all the liquid comes out.

    Would love to know how the next zucchini experiment goes.

    Sep 19, 2007 | 11:31 pm


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