Kale Tempura with Candied Bacon

Tempura? Deep fry? This is uncharted territory for me. But a couple of weeks ago we had dinner at Smallwares for my birthday, everything was amazing and this particular dish really stood out. I loved it so much I figured I’d dive right in and see if I could make it. I’m including a recipe for the tempura batter although here I used a box of tempura batter mix since we had it on hand. I confess I was a bit terrified with my first round plunging into the hot oil. Every recipe I’ve read says to bring the oil to at least 350°, which I did, and the kale just fried up brown in about two seconds, the oil splattered everywhere and I was regretting starting this at all, particularly on a 93° day in a kitchen without AC, what was I thinking? So I turned down the heat and moved the pot half off the burner and resumed, it worked out much better, my oil was at about 280° and I was able to retain the green color of the kale, it tasted more like vegetable than chip. I used curly kale but I’m sure you could use just about any kind. And now. Candy up that bacon! What could be better? This might be the key ingredient that captured me in this dish. It’s very easy to prepare using the oven method of cooking bacon, but again, hot day, oven, geesh. The online recipe didn’t indicate candied bacon, but the restaurant prepared it that way and that was a must-do. The recipe says to use 1 bunch of kale, but I used about half a bunch and it was more than enough for 4 servings. 

A funny thing, I came across this parody for an “every trendy restaurant menu”, and since I did in fact have the $3 oyster from the Pacific Northwest, Smallwares does qualify. So if this is trendy, then give me trendy! Their food is just amazing. 

Oh and I’m on Instagram now if you’d like to follow along

Kale Tempura with Candied Bacon

(Inspired by Smallwares and adapted from Edible Manhattan)

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 8 cups canola oil
  • Tempura Batter (recipe below or use a box mix)
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce dressing (recipe below)
  • 3 strips candied bacon, chopped (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Tear kale leaves off of the stems, and cut larger leaves in half. Boil kale in salted water for 1 minute. Strain into colander and spread out onto a sheet tray. When cool enough to handle squeeze out all of the water from the kale. (note: I didn’t do this part, I washed and dried the leaves, then rolled them in some tempura flour before placing in the batter)

In a large bowl put fish sauce dressing, cilantro, mint, and bacon. 

Heat 8 cups of canola oil in a wide high-sided pot to 350º (this temp was too hot and for me it burned the kale, I cooked at 280° which worked fine). Prepare your work area by having a shallow dish of dry tempura mix (about a cup) and your tempura batter in a bowl near the stove. Also have a dish with paper towel ready for your tempura pieces as they come out of the oil.

Dip the kale into the dry tempura, then dip into the tempura batter, place into the oil. It is important to try and separate the leaves as it goes in the oil to avoid clumping. Fry for a minute or two. Using a spider (or chop sticks) take kale out of oil and place into the large bowl. 

In a large serving bowl toss the kale with the fish sauce dressing, fresh herbs and bacon so all the ingredients coat it. 

Tempura Batter

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cold seltzer water
  • Dash of salt

Whisk all ingredients until they just come together.


Candied Bacon

  • 3 strips thick cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

In a rimmed baking dish cover the strips of bacon with the brown sugar on both sides. Place in cold oven, then turn oven to 375°. Check bacon after 25 minutes, it should be done in about 25-35 minutes. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the bacon. Remove from oven and place on a parchment lined surface to cool.


Fish Sauce Dressing

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 Serrano chile minced (keep the seeds if you like things spicy)

Whisk all ingredients together. Stored in the fridge, this will keep for a couple of weeks.