In volume 4, Shiro--who, like me, loves tempura--decides to make it even though he knows the process drives him crazy. He calls his mom for advice: "Is there a knack to making good tempura?"
"Derring-do!" she responds.
The narrator informs us, "Derring-do. Was there anything that [Shiro's] life lacked more of? And was there anything his mother had in greater abundance?"
Still, he decides to forge ahead. He gets the ingredients (including tempura flour--I didn't know this existed! I'm still trying to find a store that sells it). When Kenji gets home, Shiro warns him that he isn't skilled at tempura so the meal that evening might not be very good (Shiro is ignoring Julie Child's advice to never apologize for a meal, no matter how crappy).
He then proceeds to dip and fry the vegetables, which come out okay. I can attest that vegetable tempura is less problematic than meat or fish tempura.
He then moves on to the shrimp (see panel).
At the end, he is highly annoyed at himself for not making perfect tempura pieces that hold together inside unsquashed fried batter. Kenji remarks that the look of the tempura isn't important--it all still tastes good! So Shiro feels better.
Still, as far as I can remember, he hasn't made tempura in any volume since.
Tempura is one of those things that I will pay a restaurant for--I've made it; it was okay; unfortunately, I don't think I have any more derring-do than Shiro.
Maybe I'll try it again with Shiro's tips. If I can't find tempura flour, here's a batter recipe I found that seems to work pretty good:
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2/3 cup cold seltzer
1 whisked egg (I have mixed feelings about the egg--it makes the result a little too thick and heavy BUT it increases the chance of the batter staying on the meat/veggie piece)