Ok, I'm back!
I've had a note jotted down for a few days to try frying with Methocel. After using it to whip liquids, and considering it's properties to gel at high temperatures and melt at lower temps (and the ability to transfer these properties to other ingredients) had me thinking about using it as a tempura batter... sort of. This is not some revelatory shot-in-the-dark (ok... last Ozzy reference). Methocel is used commonly in industrial foods to add stability to fryable frozen convenience products in breadings and batters.
Being a Southern boy and always looking for great new ways to fry, I shoved some chopsticks into some Methocel whipped liquid and dunked it into the deep fryer to see what would happen. It puffed up and held a nice shape, but soon collapsed seconds afterward. It is inevitable to add some degree of starch to the 'batter' to hold the form once fried... however, I wanted to keep this amount to a minimum.
My first real attempt was at recreating buffalo wings.
As you can see, the first trial was not bad at all (this rarely happens). I whipped some crystal hot sauce with 1.25% Methocel (adding a little garlic, worcestershire, and other necessary modifications), and then added 3% tapioca starch. This amount is minimal, but was enough to hold the shape once fried. After dunking the wing in the batter to coat and frying it until done, I had the wing you see above. The result... very spicy (imagine a batter made almost purely of hot sauce) and slightly crispy. The methocel batter does not really get crispy, but does have a unique and enjoyable texture... sort of like a fried puffy skin. All of the flavor remains. All in all, promising results.
Next victim... a prawn tail. This time (for a more unique trial) I made the batter from the eggs and tomalley in the prawn head. To this I added lemon juice, worcestershire, a little water, and the same percentages of methocel and tapioca starch. The flavor was like eating an entire shrimp at once while simultaneously sucking the goods out of the head.
The skin and inner layer of the shrimp was slightly reminiscent of a baked sweet potato (in texture and color, not flavor). It was quite interesting to have that shrimp tail encased in it's own fat.
In following my train of thought for the shrimp... for years and years we have fried chicken using batter made from its unborn dead unfertilized children... why not allow this same atrocity to shrimp? It sure does taste good. This method will definitely be explored further. If you're going to spend the money purchasing a huge barrel of Methocel, you may as well use it in every possible way.
Basically, any liquid can be turned into a batter with this method. My first thoughts go towards classic fried preparations... coconut shrimp fried with a batter of pure coconut milk, chicken fried in a batter of pure buttermilk, corn dogs fried in corn juice batter. You get the idea. Many more ideas surface when abandoning tradition.
I cannot wait to show this technique to Big Basco... the fry master.