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  Flower tempura with coconut shoot salad

Flower tempura.jpg

This dish is a real tribute to the old cooking school, The Market Experience, it was located inside Bangkok’s Pak Khlong Talat flower market. Flowers make excellent tempura that’s not only deliciously crispy but also beautiful to look at – and the dipping sauce is wickedly addictive. Use whatever mix of pretty edible flowers and crisp vegetables you can find locally. The secret ingredient here is the limestone (see notes), which helps achieve a killer crispy finish.


Serves two as a starter or as part of a spread of dishes

For Somtam:  

1tbsp chilies (1 tsp for medium spicy)

1tsp of fresh garlic

2tbsp fish sauce

juice of 1 wedge of lime

½tbsp of palm sugar

1tbsp tamarind juice

¼ cup of cherry tomatoes

1tbsp of toast peanuts

1tsp of crispy dried shrimps

2string beans-cut 1inch

1cup of shred coconut shoot

For the tempura:

100 ml of soda water 

250 ml of cold water 

150g tempura flour 

1tsp white sugar 

a pinch of salt 

a pinch of turmeric powder 

a large handful each of butterfly pea flowers, hot basil flowers, and green beans chopped into pieces around 4cm long 

500ml vegetable oil 


To make Som Tam dressing:


Step 1: Prepare the sauce - Moderately pound garlic and chili together in a pounding mortar. Vary the number of chilies depending on how spicy you like it! - Add dried shrimp and string bean, peanuts and lightly pound them together - Add palm sugar and pound to combine with all ingredients. - Add tomato, fish sauce, tamarind sauce, lime juice, and mix it all together

Step 2: Add core ingredients - Add shredded coconut shoot and mix them well with other ingredients before serving. (See variations to see how you can make it your way). - Add some extra peanuts and adjust the flavor as desired.


Next, make the tempura batter.


Mix the tempura flour, salt together in a large bowl, then make a well in the middle and pour in cold water and whisk until well combined and the batter seizes up. Whisk until smooth and any lumps have disappeared, then stir through the turmeric powder.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan until a small number of batter sizzles and quickly browns when dropped in. Using your fingers, dangle the flowers and shred carrot in the flour batter until lightly coated, then fry in the oil in batches until cooked through, crispy, and golden-brown. Remove from the pan, pat dry with a kitchen towel

To make sweet tamarind sauce, AKA Phad Thai Sauce

1 tbsp, White vinegar                      

200 ml, Tamarind concentrate         

30ml of fish sauce

30ml of soy sauce                         

1/4 cup, Palm sugar


Add soy sauce and fish sauce, palm sugar, caster sugar, tamarind concentrate, white vinegar by cooking them together till it is reduced for 5 minutes on low heat

To plate up

Plate the Somtam salad with coconut shoot first then top with flower tempura, drizzle 1 tbsp of tamarind sauce on the top of crispy tempura flowers 


Tips you can use limestone water in the tempura batter helps make it ice-cold instead of soda water so that it quickly puffs up and becomes ultra-crispy when it hits the hot oil. Thai markets sell small, inexpensive bags of red-colored limestone powder (known in Thai as ‘boon sai’), that keep well in the cupboard; just a little added to a bowl of water will create limestone water that’s perfect for this recipe. If you can’t find limestone in this form, just use twice the amount of cold water (240ml in total), and chill the batter in the fridge for 30 minutes before frying.


To make the dipping sauce dairy-free, replace the evaporated milk with another 3tbsp of coconut milk.


Add your own twist

  • You don’t need to stop at flowers – for something more substantial, replace the flowers in this recipe for pieces of chicken, squid or tofu, or whole peeled king prawns.

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