More Than Just Fried Food – The World of Japanese Tempura

Hello, this is Ayamegu(@ayakami_meguru).I will write about Tempura this time.
Tempura is a popular Japanese dish consisting of seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients that are lightly battered and deep fried. Known for its light, crispy texture, tempura is a staple of Japanese cuisine enjoyed both at restaurants and in home cooking.

History and Culture of Tempura

The concept of frying foods in batter came to Japan from Portugal in the 16th century. It was originally just for festivals but soon spread to street food.

In the Edo period (1603-1868), tempura restaurants proliferated and chefs transformed the dish into a refined cuisine. Tokyo became known for its tempura masters.

Traditionally, ingredients are quickly fried at high heat in a light batter called tenkasu. This creates a delicate crunchy coating that seals in moisture and flavor.

Tempura highlights seasonality. Chefs closely follow optimal harvest times for seafood and vegetables when sourcing ingredients. For example, spring tempura features carrots, lotus root, and squid, while fall tempura uses eggplant, shrimp, and ginkgo nuts.

Serving tempura immediately upon frying is key. That’s why many restaurants have diners sit at counters to watch the chef prepare it fresh.

Tempura is often eaten with dipping sauces like tentsuyu, dashi, or simple salt. The sauces complement but don’t overpower the natural flavors of the tempura ingredients.

While once considered fast food, tempura now receives the reverence of high cuisine in Japanese dining. Chefs rigorously train in the art of proper tempura.

Varieties of Tempura

There are many popular ingredients used in tempura:

Seafood – Shrimp, squid, scallops, fish, crab, clams. Should be extremely fresh.

Vegetables – Sweet potato, pumpkin, eggplant, okra, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms.

Others – Udon noodles, green tea ice cream, flowers.

Some iconic tempura dishes include:

Ebi Tempura – Large tiger prawns are most common. Butterfly them before frying.

Kakiage – Mixed tempura fritter with seafood and veggies like squash and onion.

Shiitake Tempura – Lightly coat the mushroom caps in batter and fry just the cap.

Kabocha Tempura – Winter squash rings or chunks, whether kabocha or butternut squash.

Renkon Tempura – Lotus root sliced thin or in half-moons to showcase the hole patterns when fried.

Ice Cream Tempura – Flash frying green tea or other ice cream to create a warm, fried shell around the cold ice cream.

The ingredients, slice sizes, batter consistency, oil temperature, and timing all factor into ideal tempura. Chefs consider all these elements.

How to Cook Tempura Properly

Tips for making great tempura at home:

  • Keep batter ice cold. Don’t overmix, which can make batter dense.
  • Use high smoke point oil like canola or rice bran oil heated to 350-375°F.
  • Coat items lightly in batter just before frying one at a time.
  • Fry in small batches. Don’t overcrowd the oil.
  • Turn items once while frying for even coating.
  • Drain on wire rack or paper towels. Eat immediately.
  • Match with dipping sauce. Avoid dunking tempura in sauce.
  • Maintain oil temperature. Remove batter bits between frying.

While deep frying can seem intimidating, a few simple tricks make restaurant-quality tempura achievable in home kitchens. With prime ingredients and proper technique, you can master this iconic Japanese dish.

Tags: #tempura #japanesefood #deepfrying #japancuisine #seafood

References: Just One Cookbook:
Japan Info: