Tempura: the Iconic Japanese Batter–Fried Dish

Tempura: the Iconic Japanese Batter–Fried Dish

You might have heard of or eaten tempura before. It is a popular Japanese dish consisting of seafood and vegetables which have been battered and deep fried. Along with sukiyaki, tempura is considered a symbolic Japanese cuisine.

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Origin of Tempura

Dating back to the old period, fried food was introduced to Japan under the Chinese influence. It wasn’t really the Chinese who introduced tempura though, but the Portuguese and Spanish missionaries and traders who went to the country. The word tempura comes from the Portuguese words, temperer (to cook) and temperor (cookery). It was even linked to some religious reasons. There was a time when the meat-eating was a taboo because of religious beliefs.

Tempura types

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There are two types of tempura.

  1. Deep-fried with coating (tsuke-age)
  2. Deep-fried without coating (koromo-age)

The deep-fried tempura originated from the Eastern part of Japan during the Edo period while the coated deep-fried tempura originated from Western Japan. Going back to the Edo period wherein woods were very much common in cooking, it was a norm to engage in activities outdoors. Stalls for tempura became popular then.

Tempura stalls looked like those in the picture above during the Edo period. Tempura was popular as a snack for common people during that time.

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Modern tempura stalls look like the one above.

How to Batter Tempura

First, you have to make sure you have all the ingredients at hand. Make sure your water is cold and you have a soft wheat flour. The flour is the same that you would use for pastries and cakes. Some of the ingredients you can add are the following:

  • eggs
  • soy sauce
  • oil
  • starch
  • baking soda or baking powder
  • spices

Mix with chopsticks. The batter must remain cold. Make sure not to over mix! It should still have some lumps. Over mixing will result in a chewy texture which is not good.

You can watch the detailed cooking video below!