This recipe was inspired by a marvel of a salad served at Sriphiphai Thai Restaurant in New York. It features deep-fried watercress which sounds like an impossibility, but winds up as revelation. Part of the revelation for me was that I could deep-fry all kinds of fragrant, green herbs and come up with startling and delightful flavor combinations. Basil is a perfect candidate for this treatment, its flavors intensified by the quick hot dip in oil. The shrimp is optional, but does make this dish a more substantial main course serving. —vrunka
basil leaves (preferably Thai basil, but Italian will do)
In a medium-sized bowl, slowly add the water to the tempura flour, whisking to combine well.
In a large skillet, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Working quickly, dip each basil leaf into the tempura batter then drop in the oil. Do about 10 leaves at a time. Pull out the leaves when they are crisp and slightly brown, about 30 seconds - 1 minute. Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining leaves.
Drain off the oil in the skillet and wipe it out. Heat the skillet to medium high and toss the shrimp in the pan, sautéing for about 5 minutes or until pink. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
Toss together the shrimp, apple and cashews and place on serving platter.
Combine all ingredients for the dressing, making sure the sugar completely dissolves. Pour over the shrimp mixture and toss to combine.