Tempura: Golden Deep-fried Glory

A BRIEF HISTORY

If you think that tempura is just another deep-fried food, think again. It’s more than that. Introduced by the Portuguese people in the late 16th century, tempura played one of the vital roles in the Japanese cuisine. The dish is easy to make and calls for ingredients that are probably in your kitchen already.

During the early times, Japanese deep-fried food are simply fried without batter or breadcrumbs, or fried coated with just rice flour. But as Portuguese missionaries and merchants who resided in Nagasaki went and influenced the people, they introduced the method of mixing flour and egg as a batter. It was to fulfill the abstinence and fasting requirements of Catholic people during the Ember Days which is in Latin Quator Tempora. Hence, the birth of the word tempura. In those days, tempura in Nagasaki was made with a batter (Flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and sake mixture) and was deep-fried in lard. Since the batter was thick, they resembled fritters and were eaten without any dipping sauce.

When the 17th century began, tempura underwent a significant change and gained more popularity to the crowd. Because they want to retain the freshness of the ingredients used, especially seafood, tempura used only flour, eggs, and water as their main ingredients and didn’t use any seasoning. The batter was mixed with cold water as to not resemble a heavy, doughy stickiness to it. It also became a practice to dip the tempura in the sauce mixed with winter radish before it’s eaten. Tempura was considered fast food back then because it’s convenient and easy to make. However, after the Meiji period, tempura rose to its fame and became one the best dishes made in Japan alongside ramen.

TENPURA-YA RESTAURANTS IN TOKYO, JAPAN

With a dish that calls for simple ingredients, it’s no wonder that tempura is one of the easiest to make and a crowd favorite among people who are always on the go and enjoys a satisfying meal. You can enjoy its glorious deep-fried goodness over rice (tendon) or eat it on its own with a dipping sauce. Many restaurants offer tempura in set meals and it’s also a popular ingredient in take-out or convenience store meals.

Listed down are some of the famous tempura-ya restaurants in Tokyo, Japan. Some of the prices may vary depending on the ingredients used but one can always enjoy tempura especially when it’s just hot off the kitchen.

Miyagawa
Located just ten minutes away from Omotesando Station, this small, humble shop offers milder and lighter tempuras deep-fried in sunflower oil instead of the sesame version of Kanto tempura. The meals are made under strict and detailed manner, portioned agreeably well. Must try: jo-tendon (¥1,800). Located in Palace Aoyama 1F, 6-1-6 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku Tokyo.

Tensen

With reasonable prices, their tempura bowls won’t leave you disappointed. They are loaded with prawns, eel, thick shiitake mushrooms stuffed with shrimp dumplings. Must try: Tokusei tempura bowl (¥1,600). Located in Plaza Edogawabashi B1F, 1-23-6 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku Tokyo.

Fukamachi
This Michelin starred tempura-ya will hit you in all the good ways. Their tempuras are fried in freshly pressed, unroasted sesame oil, which gives off a crunchy bite. Their sauce is also a top notch and has a rich flavor that seeps deeply into the tempura. It’s best paired with their miso soup. Must try: Tokusei Kakiage Tendon (¥2,500). Located in 2-5-2 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku Tokyo.

Kaneko Hannosuke
If you like something affordable, delicious tempura bowls and don’t mind waiting, then this one’s for you. The one single dish in the menu, which is good portioned and topped with egg, will leave you pleased and full. Located in 1-11-15 Nihonbashi-Muromachi, Chuo-ku Tokyo.

Tenoto
This tempura-ya serves tempura over rice in three types: Chu, Jo, and Tokujo. They are made with purest sesame oil in town and used the freshest ingredients in the market. Be surprised with their jumbo prawns, eel, lotus too, and kakiage. Located in 1-13-2 Nihonbashi-Kakigaracho, Chuo-ku Tokyo.

FUN FACTS ABOUT TEMPURA

  1. There is a National Tempura Day and it’s celebrated every 7th of January.
  2. Contrary to popular belief, tempura doesn’t use panko or breadcrumbs.
  3. Though still not certain, the word tempura was said coined after the word “tempêro” which means seasoning in Portuguese.
  4. Ebi (shrimp) is the popular ingredient used in tempura.
  5. Tempura isn’t just for savory food but can also be done with sweets like chocolate and fruits which resembles fritters in Western culture.

She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.

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