Updated: April 17, 2018
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Tempura - What is it, How to make it, and How to enjoy it?

Tempura is one of the most common and popular Japanese food. Here is all about tempura - introducing the history, recipes of batter and dipping sauce, a variety of ways to eat tempura, and where to eat them in Japan!

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What is tempura?

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Tempura (天ぷら/天麩羅) is a traditional Japanese dish loved by people in Japan. They are made of ingredients such as vegetables and seafood battered and then deep fried. Tempura could be a fancy food cooked in a fancy restaurant, or could be a home cooking, or even be a fast food in chain restaurants. It means tempura is a truly common dish for the Japanese.

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Tempura is actually brought from Portugal at the end of the 16th, when the Portuguese missionaries and merchants living in Nagasaki, a city in the south part of Japan, tried to make fritters. The method of using batter and frying ingredients got popularized first in Nagasaki, and then Edo (called Tokyo today). Especially in Edo, it became very common because of the abundant seafood in Tokyo Bay. Today's mainstream of tempura is based on the Tokyo style (Edo style), which was invented at the street food shop near a fish market. Edo is also the place that invented the dipping sauce for tempura.

How to make tempura

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Tempura is such a delicate dish that making perfect tempura is not easy. But you can make crispy and delicious homemade tempura by following this recipe and some tips!

-Your choices of vegetables and seafood
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 large egg
-1 cup ice cold water
<Dipping sauce (tentsuyu)>
-1 cup dashi stock (Japanese cooking stock made from fish or seaweed
-1/3 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
-1/3 cup soy sauce
-grated daikon radish

<Make the batter>
1. Sift flour once or twice to make it light and soft.
2. In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg and barely mix the yolk and egg whites.
3. Add cold water to the bowl and mix it with the egg.
4. Add the sifted flour and mix them using chopsticks for just a few seconds. It's totally fine to leave lumps in the mixture, do not over-mix the batter.
5. Dip slices of vegetables and seafood into the batter.
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6. Time depends on the ingredients (Vegetables; one side 1-2 minute each/ Seafood; 10-30 seconds). The oil temperature should be kept between 160°C-180°C (320-356°F).
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<Make the sauce>
7. Put every ingredients for sauce into a pan and boil it. For dashi stock and mirin, if you are in Japan, every grocery stores has them. If you are in other countries, you probably find them in Asian markets.
8. Serve tempura with dipping sauce and grated daikon radish.
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1. Use cold water for the batter.
2. Do not fry many tempura at the same time and try to keep the same temperature.
3. Use chopsticks to mix. Do not mix too much, which makes tempura heavy, un-airly, and un-crispy.

Ingredients for tempura

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A great variety of ingredients is used
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Shrimp (prawn) is the most popular tempura, which is called "ebi tempura" in Japanese. Squid (calamari), crab, and many kinds of fish like catfish and cod are also often used.
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Just like seafood, various vegetables are used for tempura. The most common ones are pumpkins, sweet potatoes, eggplants. Bamboo shoots, bell peppers, carrots, onions, shiitake mushrooms, and shiso leaves are quite common too.
・Local and unique ingredients
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As any ingredients could be used, there are a variety of tempura except seafood and vegetables. Locally famous ingredients can be found in some regions. Also there are some unique ones that people have recently started to use.
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Ice cream (wripped in a pound cake, dipped in tempura batter, and fried)
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Chicken tempura is originated in Oita prefecture (the southern part of Japan) and has been commonly eaten
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Soft boiled egg, a new popular topping especially for udon
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Momiji (Japanese maple leaves) is used for tempura in Osaka Prefecture. They are coated with slightly sweetened batter, which makes it like a crispy snack.

Various ways to enjoy tempura

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Tempura set meal:
The traditional way of eating tempura. You eat them with dipping sauce (tentsuyu) or salt. Usually comes with rice and miso soup.
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Tempura soba/udon:
Found in most of soba and udon restaurants. Tempura is topped over the noodles and eaten with the noodle soup instead of dipping sauce.
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It stands for tempura donburi (rice bowl). Tempura is served on steamed rice in a bowl with a sweet soy sauce (tastes similar to teriyaki sauce) already drizzled over it. You can easily find cheap tendon in Japan.
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Tempura sushi roll:
Currentry popular not in Japan, but in other countries like the U.S. It is sushi rolls with tempura (usually shrimp) inside. Sometimes the rolls themselves are also deep fried.

Tempura is truly one of the best dish

Tempura, perfectly deep fried ingredients, is very tasty and addicting. When you find yourself in Japan, just give it a try!

Where to eat?

I love traveling and eating. My favorites are everything matcha and cheesecakes.

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