Tempura is a classic Japanese dish consisting of battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, or sometimes meat. What’s in the tempura can vary, but the most important element of what tempura is comes from the iconic light and crispy coating. Despite its prominence in Japanese cooking, tempura has its origins in Portuguese cuisine. Tempura was originally created for Lent, when Christians are not meant to eat meat. This explains why tempura usually features vegetables and fish rather than meat. The original dish was often referred to as being eaten ad tempora cuaresme, which is Latin for “in time of Lent.” When Portuguese missionaries brought the dish to Japan in the 1600s, the Japanese mistook this for the dish’s name and began calling it tempura.
Tempura became extremely popular in Japan as one of Japan’s first fried foods and it quickly became a mainstay of Japanese cooking. As with many fried foods, tempura is often associated with bars and it does pair very well with a nice beer or sake. But there are many different ways to enjoy tempura and it’s a simple recipe to add to your home cooking! Shrimp is perhaps one of the most popular ways to enjoy tempura so next time you host a party, consider swapping your usual cold cocktail shrimp for hot and crispy shrimp tempura! The first step to making shrimp tempura, or any tempura, is making the batter. Tempura is a simple batter to make but requires a few specific steps. Lightly mix together an egg, a cup of ice water, and a cup of flour to make your tempura. The batter should be a little lumpy and when you’re ready to fry, coat your food in cake flour then dip it into the batter. From there, add it to your frying oil and you’re good to go! If your tempura doesn’t come out crispy enough, adding some cornstarch to your batter can help. This basic method of using tempura can be applied to making so many great tempura dishes!
With your tempura batter made, you can make a number of delicious dishes, like shrimp tempura or shrimp tempura rolls. Just prep your raw shrimp by making horizontal slits going down the shrimp and stretching them to prevent curling, then batter and fry them for about three minutes in oil heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The most traditional way to make tempura is by using sesame oil, but if you don’t have sesame oil, any oil with a high smoke point such as vegetable or canola oil will work. From here you can serve your shrimp tempura or combine them with some vegetables like carrot, avocado, or cucumber wrapped in sushi rice and nori sheets to create shrimp tempura rolls!
The best way to enjoy any kind of tempura is with a great dipping sauce, and the most common tempura sauce is called tentsuyu. This is a very light and simple dipping sauce made of dashi, mirin, and shoyu. This dipping sauce pairs well with anything from fish to vegetables and it offsets the heaviness of the fried batter. Tempura is a wonderful appetizer or snack but it can also be a great element to a number of main courses. One popular dish featuring tempura is tendon, a Japanese rice bowl topped with tempura. Tempura can be delicious without any vegetable or fish—tempura flakes are used as a topping or seasoning in many Japanese dishes. They are simply flakes of crispy tempura that you can sprinkle over rice, noodles, and other foods to add the perfect crunch to any bite of food. You can even find instant noodles, like this Hikari Menraku Udon: Tempura, that feature tempura flakes.
If you want to stock up on some tempura essentials, Bokksu Market offers a wide range of products that will quickly become essentials in your pantry. For those who want to make cooking a bit easier, you can pick up a box of Tempura Batter Mix, which allows you to make tempura by just adding ice water to the mix and stirring it all together! If you really love tempura, these Noriten Seaweed Tempura Chips: Wasabi are the perfect way to get your tempura fix anytime! They have the great crunch of tempura with all the flavor of wasabi in a delicious chip! You’ll find these tempura items, along with pretty much anything else you could find at a Japanese grocery store, on Bokksu Market! And better yet, you can order your groceries online, so you’ll never have to leave home to make the trip to an Asian grocery store again!
By Courtney Thompson