David Bowie’s Shrimp Tempura (1978)


As everyone in the western world knows, Mr. David Bowie left Planet Earth late Sunday night.

bowie eating on a train


This made me incredibly sad. Surprisingly so. I cried in the car on the way to work today when his duet of “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby came on the radio. I dunno, it just gave me the feels.

I felt really stupid crying for someone I had never met; but then I got to work and my boss was teary-eyed as well.

Many other writers have articulated, much better than I ever could, what a fucking boss Bowie was. So what could I do to honor everyone’s favorite Space Oddity?

Well, I did what I know how to do. And that’s make food from the 70s!

Here is one of his favorite recipes, at least according to this 1978 cookbook:

the happy cooker

Now I desperately want a copy of this book. Too bad the cheapest copy is over $90.

The Happy Cooker, get it?

I had no idea who this woman is. So I took to the internet to find out. And, wow! Monique van Vooren is quite the lady: skater, Belgian beauty queen, Fulbright scholar, she even appeared in an Andy Warhol movie (also, she is still kickin’ at 88)!

But right now, let’s focus on the fact that she spent numerous nights with David Bowie, made him tempura (or did he make it for her?) and then wrote about it in a cookbook…

bowie tempura


Yeah, I changed the recipe up. But only the amounts. It was just me tonight, so I cut everything down to 1/4 the original recipe. For the oil, I used just peanut and added some sesame oil for flavor—who the hell would throw away over a cup of sesame oil? That shit is expensive! My peanut/sesame mix totaled about 1.5 cups, which I put in a small saucepan since I was doing such little deep-frying.

I deep-fried! I NEVER DEEP-FRY!

Shrimp tempura fry!

This was my set-up

tempura batter

I was reaaaaly skeptical about this batter


tempura fry

Look, Ma! I’m frying!

Yeah, I thought the batter was a little thick, but what the fuck do I know–the result was just swell!

David Bowie Tempura

“Earthling” reminds me of how much I regret never having the chance to see the Bowie/Reznor tour.

OK, one other thing: I did change up the sauce, because, um, who wants just soy sauce and ginger? I added some scallion, black vinegar, sherry, and a drop of sesame oil. Yum.

Overall, this was a very successful experiment. So I thank you, seemingly random, fabulous cookbook lady!

I’m gonna peace out with a few of my favorite Bowie tunes.

I don’t know what it is about “Modern Love.” It’s so gosh darn peppy and catchy, yet it always kinda makes me sad.

“Let’s Dance” has such a sexy groove. And it’s rather romantic.

 Real talk: who doesn’t want to sway under the serious moonlight?

“Life on Mars” is epic and theatrical, dramatic and sweeping, and, in the actual definition of the word: awesome. Barbra has covered it. As has Jessica Lange (that right there is enough for me to try out this shit at karaoke). But the best version is the original...

Well, that is until I heard this live version from the 2003 Reality Tour.

You owe it to yourself to click on that video. Do it for Ziggy Stardust. Do it for the Thin White Duke. Do it for Agent Phillip Jeffries. Do it for the Goblin King.

OK, throw in this 1980 clip for good measure–he’s in full-on James Dean drag and it’s LOUSY with fantastic late 70s/early 80s video transitions.

This entry was posted in 1970s, cookbooks, Food, Recipes, Retro Food, Retro Recipes, Shrimp and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to David Bowie’s Shrimp Tempura (1978)

  1. tarynnicole says:

    Thank you for this, awesome as usual!! Oh, Lord how I want that book now! xx
    PS – I got a bit teary too.

  2. ecobota says:

    I also felt some way about it. But mostly because the world felt a way. It’s rare you see humanity come together about anything.

    Also that tempura looks delish.

  3. What a fabulous book! (And congrats on the deep frying!)

  4. Cecilia says:

    I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing. Great recipe!

  5. Conor Bofin says:

    I think I’m in love with you. I certainly am in love with your shrimps. Excellent as always. Bowie passing was such a loss. He was undoubtedly the most creative musician / showman of his generation.

  6. Fantastic find! And yes, “Life on Mars” IS actual definition of the word: awesome, it certainly was on heavy rotation at our house this past week 🙁

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  9. telesma says:

    Let’s Dance is very romantic – it actually began as a ballad and Nile Rogers turned into the rocking dance song it became. I got a copy of the cookbook because of this. I collect cookbooks and I’m a lifelong Bowie fan, so thank you for that. 🙂

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