For as long as I can remember, tempura has been one of my favorite Japanese dishes, one that was only recently replaced by ramen in its myriad variations. Nevertheless, sweet, succulent prawns that have been battered up and deep-fried remain high up on my list of favorites.
Tempura is normally served with rice, possibly the best way to do it, though it may sometimes be served with soup noodles (as in either a tempura ramen or a tempura udon) or with cold buckwheat noodles (ten-zaru soba) and dressed with chilled soy and scallions. In recent years, some progressive-minded Japanese restaurants have been using tempura-fried prawns as an ingredient for hand-rolls (temaki) and maki; in many convenience stores in Japan, these are also used to pep up o-nigiri (rice balls) for quick, portable meals.
And now, one of my favorite Japanese bakeries recently introduced a completely different way of eating tempura: stuffing a whole battered prawn into a brioche roll. This, ladies and gentlemen, is JiPan‘s Ebi Tempura Roll.
Unlike many baked goods and pre-packaged snacks that claim to have the flavor of shrimp or prawns but have little (or absolutely nothing) in the way of the real thing, JiPan’s ebi tempura roll actually does involve wrapping a whole batter-fried prawn (proof of the matter: they leave the frilled tail sticking out of one end) in brioche dough and baking it into a delectable, portable, and satisfying snack along the lines of a prawn sandwich – only a bit lighter because there’s no mayo or any other egg-based dressings involved. Instead, the battered prawn is dipped in tentsuyu (that sweet mirin-and-soy sauce used for dipping tempura) before being wrapped in the dough. The dough is again brushed with more tentsuyu before baking.
If you like shrimp sandwiches (I adore the ones made with avocado, by the way), lobster rolls, or crabmeat-salad sarnies, you’re going to like this. The prawns used are large enough so you get shrimpy goodness with every bite straight down to the frilled tail at the end of the bun. The taste is a delicious mix of sweet, salty, and utterly umami and the contrasting textures are interesting: the pillowy softness of the bread with the al dente prawn is quite desirable.
Each tempura roll goes for about P 60.00 – a tad pricey, but worth it given how prawns are rather expensive things. But believe me when I say that it’s worth it. Oh, and one other thing: don’t forget to grab one of JiPan’s cream cheese pies - cheesecake filling stuffed in puff pastry and baked – for dessert while you’re there. ;)