Jacques Pépin's mother used this easy and clever technique to fry whole eggplants at Le Pélican, her Lyon restaurant. She cut the small eggplants into fans because they cook more quickly that way and have more supercrisp tempura crust.
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8 thin 3-ounce Asian eggplants, or four 6-ounce eggplants, halved lengthwise
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cups ice water
Lemon wedges, for serving
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 325°. Set a large wire rack over a large rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, starting just below the stem, cut each eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices attached at the stem. Press down on the eggplants to fan the slices out.
In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to 350°, or until shimmering. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the egg yolks and half of the ice water until almost smooth, then whisk in the remaining ice water.
Working in 3 batches, dip the eggplants in the batter and add them to the skillet. Fry the eggplants over high heat until nicely browned, about 3 minutes. Turn the eggplants and cook until browned on the second side, about 3 minutes longer. Reduce the heat if the eggplants brown too quickly. Transfer the eggplant tempura to the rack and season with salt; keep warm in the oven while you fry the rest. Serve at once with lemon wedges.
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