In Which We Talk About Kaki-Age

Kaki-age from Kenji Tei

Kaki-age from Kenji Tei

Kaki-age is a variation on the standard tempura recipe that involves shredding a number of vegetables, mostly root veg, and tossing them into a very cold, lightly seasoned batter that fries up into a shaggy-looking fritter that, if done right, is crisp all the way through.

The name is something of a misnomer because the literal translation of kaki-age is “fried oyster” (kaki = oyster; age = cooked in hot oil / fried), but I have never encountered actual oysters featured in the dish.  (I have heard about the corn and oyster kaki-age over at Ooma at the Megamall, but I’ve hadn’t had the opportunity to go there and taste for myself.)  As stated previously, it’s predominantly made with vegetables.  In the Philippines, this is usually a combination of carrots, sweet white onions, potato or sweet potato, and kabocha pumpkin.  In the case of restaurants like Kenji Tei and Teriyaki Boy, bits and bobs of prawn, squid, and crab are sometimes added to add a savory and slightly fishy twist to something whose basic flavor is essentially sweet and earthy.  There have also been spicy versions wherein the brilliantly colored and aromatically incendiary shichimi togarashi was added to the batter for a touch of heat and zing.

The average serving of kaki-age comes to the table with the standard-issue dish of tentsuyu into which one dips the fritters.  My favorite way of eating them, however, is the way it’s served at Kenji Tei: a wedge of fresh lemon comes alongside your tempura, squeeze it over the fritters evenly, and then you dip it into the tentsuyu.  This gives the sweet, earthy kaki-age a fresh, citrusy overtone that goes beautifully with the ginger and radish in the sauce.  It’s the sort of dish that calls to mind summer lunches alone and you haven’t got a care in the world.  🙂


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