BEER-BATTER TEMPURA WITH DIPPING SAUCE

 1 1/2 cups beer (not dark)
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 small sweet potatoes
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
2 small red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch-thick rings
12 asparagus spears, trimmed

In a bowl whisk beer into flour until smooth and stir in salt. Make several shallow cuts across the inside curve of each shrimp and press shrimp gently (to help prevent curling during the cooking). Peel sweet potato and cut cross-wise into 1/4-inch thick slices.

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Working in batches of 3 or 4 pieces, dredge shrimp, sweet potato slices, bell pepper rings and asparagus spears in batter to coat completely, letting excess drip off and fry, turning, until golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer tempura as fried to brown paper with tongs to drain and season with salt. Serve with dipping sauce (recipe follows).

DIPPING SAUCE

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced ginger

In a saucepan heat soy sauce, sugar and ginger until sugar dissolves, add rice vinegar and scallions.