Tempura set

Savor the Delights of Light and Crispy Tempura

Tempura (天ぷら or 天麩羅 ) is a delicious Japanese dish that includes a light, crispy, and deep fried batter. It usually is made with vegetables or seafood, shrimps being the most popular.

Tempura was first introduced to Japan as early as the middle of the 16th century by the Portuguese. It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu, first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, loved tempura. During this period, similar dishes made with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) such as tonkatsu (pork cutlet) were also introduced.

Different kinds of Tempura street food

One theory of the origin of the word “tempura” is that it comes from the Latin word “tempora” which means “time” or “time period.”  The word “Tempora” was used by Portuguese and Spanish missionaries to refer to the Lenten period.  Catholics observe fasting and, on Fridays and other holy days, abstain from eating meat, choosing fish or vegetables instead.

Another theory is that it comes from the Portuguese word “tempero,” which refers to a spicy condiment. The term “tempura” became commonly used in Japan to connote any type of food prepared using hot oil.

Making Tempura

Tempura is one of my favorite Japanese dishes. I always use shrimps and vegetables like carrots, okra, eggplant, string beans, and even sweet potato. I also use the same batter and panko bread crumbs for tonkatsu. The secret in making a great tempura is the batter.  Here is a quick and simple recipe to satisfy your taste buds:
Tempura batter:
1/4 cup rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 t salt
1 t umami
1/2 t baking powder
1 whole egg
2/3 cup ice water


Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, mix the ice water and egg together. Slowly mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Set aside ¼ cup of the batter with 1 tablespoon of ice water. Make sure to keep the batter cold by putting the bowls on crushed ice.

Heat vegetable oil to 375° F in a fryer. Dip your seafood and vegetables in the thicker batter and fry. With the thinner batter, use your finger to scatter batter onto the fryer around the shrimp to give the tempura more volume and crunch. Cook one side until light and fluffy (not golden brown) and flip onto the other side. Drain with paper towels.

Dipping sauce:
1 beef cube
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
Grated daikon radish to taste
Grated ginger to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pot except for the grated daikon radish. Bring it to a simmer in low heat. Allow the sauce to cool before serving. Add the grated daikon radish and ginger according to your taste. Enjoy!