Traditional  Japanese Treat, Tempura

When you come to Japan, you must want to eat tempura. 

Tempura is a Japanese dish that is made of seafood and vegetables, coated in a flour-based batter and then deep-fried.  

In this article, we would like to explain where you can try it, and what are popular ingredients of tempura and its history. 

Where to Eat Tempura 

Tempura restaurant  

If you want to appreciate tempura as main dishes, we recommend visiting the specialty restaurants of tempura. In general, tempura restaurants are well known as luxury places. You can just take a seat at the counter, then the chef serves you freshly-fried tempura. Of course, it tastes amazing! 

Restaurants usually have course meals which are served in the recommended order so that you can enjoy the tasty dishes seeing chefs are cooking right in front of you. They will also tell you how to eat and the best seasoning depending on the ingredients. 

Soba/Udon/Tendon restaurant  

If you want to try tempura more casual rather than the specialty restaurants, you can also eat them at soba/udon restaurants and local Japanese restaurants that can be easily found anywhere in japan. 

In these places, you can enjoy tempura along with soba or udon. Tempura set and tendon are popular meals too. 

Tempura set is a set meal of several ingredients of tempura, rice, and soup such as a miso soup. 

Tendon is a rice bowl topped with several varieties of tempura and usually comes with tentsuyu (dipping sauce for tempura). 

When you order tempura with soba or udon, it’s served on top of the noodles or on the small dish separately.  

Kinds of Tempura 

Here are the popular, classic ingredients among Japanese. 

Shrimp 

Also called “ebi” in Japanese, shrimp is the most common ingredient for tempura. 

Fish 

Small fish of fillet tempura. White fish is often used. 

Vegetables 

Aubergine, pumpkin, green bean, sweet potato and shiso are the most popular vegetables for tempura. 

Kakiage 

Kakiage is a mix of vegetables and small shrimp cut into small pieces, deep-fried together. For kakiage, onion and carrot are usually used in. 

Ways to Eat Tempura / Seasoning 

In most restaurants, tempura comes with tentsuyu. 

Tentsuyu is a dipping sauce for tempura consisting of four parts dashi, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce, then mix them up and simmer. It’s perfect for any ingredients of tempura, so you will never get tired of it. 

Adding grated radish to tentsuyu is also quite common, and it makes the flavor lighter. 

Other than tentsuyu, you can choose some seasoning depending on the ingredients. For example, salt is a popular one - a sprinkling of salt brings out the original flavor of ingredients. Some restaurants also serve selected flavored salts, such as matcha salt (salt with green tea powder mixed in). 

Let’s ask the chef's recommendation and try different patterns to match the ingredients! 

History of Tempura 

Tempura is well known as Japanese traditional food, but the current frying method using wheat flour was introduced by was rarely eaten by the people. 

However Portuguese missionary in the 16th century. Before then, Japanese people used to eat tempura using rice flour based batter, and its taste was stronger compared to now.  

At that time of its introduction to Japan, cooking oil was valuable and fried food was very expensive. Because of that, tempura, during the Edo period, the production of cooking oil increased and tempura has gradually spread to the commoner as well.  At that time, tempura was often skewered and eaten at stalls. 

From the end of Edo period to Meiji period, tempura restaurants and Japanese-style restaurants have appeared. Tempura-chefs cooked in front of customers have got people’s attention. 

Although tempura spread to the public, in times of the Pacific War, it became 

a luxury food because of a food-shortage and short supply of the cooking oil. 

After the war, with the economic recovery, Japanese diet has gradually enriched. Deep-fried food became more common and began to be cooked at home, finally tempura became a popular dish in Japan. 

Tempura as Home Cooking 

As mentioned above, tempura can also be cooked at home. 

How to make it is very simple, you can just coat seafood and vegetables with a flour-based batter and then deep fry it. However, it’s not so easy to fry it to a crisp, not to be greasy. 

Not just choosing good ingredients, the correct oil temperature, how to batter crispy and fry it… there are some tips you need to know for tasty tempura. 

Finally 

Despite its simplicity, tempura is a dish with many possibilities and you can try various tastes depending on the chefs.  

It is definitely worth savoring the tasty tempura, when you come to Japan!