Tempura: A Guide to a Japanese Favorite

Tempura: A Guide to a Japanese Favorite

Tempura is a Japanese cuisine staple and is offered in many restaurants throughout Japan and the U.S. You may see tempura dishes in the form of vegetable tempura, shrimp tempura, or even sushi rolls. While it's a typical Japanese dish, you may be surprised that tempura's origins are Portuguese instead of Japanese.

Below, we dive deeper into this delicious Japanese dish and its interesting history.

What Is Tempura?

Tempura is a yummy food that consists of vegetables or seafood dipped in a tempura batter. These morsels are then deep-fried in hot oil and served alongside a dipping sauce. Depending on your hunger level, you can enjoy tempura as an appetizer, side dish, or main dish. It's well-known for its delicious crust, which is light, fluffy, and the perfect complement to the foods it coats.

History of Tempura

As mentioned, tempura has Portuguese origins. It was initially brought to Nagasaki, Japan, by Portuguese missionaries in the 17th century. At the time, the dish looked much different. It was created initially as a recipe for lent, hence its original name ad tempora cuaresme meaning “in the time of lent.” This name was misinterpreted by Japanese people at the time, leading to its current name, tempura. Over the years, the original recipe for tempura disappeared, and it was replaced by the Japanese version eaten worldwide today. Before the missionaries brought tempura to Japan, there wasn't an option for fried food like in China and other countries.

How Is Tempura Made?

Once tempura batter is made, the veggies and seafood are sliced, prepped, and dipped into the batter. Then, they're deep-fried for a few minutes until a golden brown color appears on the outside and the vegetables or seafood is cooked through.

An authentic tempura recipe uses sesame oil as the frying oil. Though, you’ll find some home chefs prefer vegetable, canola, or peanut oil due to its lower cost.

What Is Usually in Tempura Batter?

The standard tempura recipe is relatively easy and only requires a few ingredients – flour, beaten egg, and cold water. The consistency of tempura batter is thinner than a standard deep-frying batter to help create its distinct fluffy consistency.

What Can You Put in Tempura?

The great thing about tempura is that you can put most vegetables and seafood into the batter, which will come out tasting delicious. Standard options include sweet potatoes, bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, shrimp, green beans, and onions.

How Do You Eat Tempura?

Tempura fried vegetables and shrimp are served with a delicious, light dipping sauce that lets the flavor of the coating and the other ingredients shine through. This dipping sauce is made from dashi soup stock, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar. It’s sweet, salty, and light.

You can also serve tempura with plain soy sauce if you don’t have access to the other ingredients.

Ready to make a homemade version of tempura? Try our Single Recipe Box, Tempura, today!

Learn more about Japanese culture as you whip up your next Japanese-inspired meal with the Wa-Gokoro subscription box ingredients.

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