Tempura: The Stylish and Satisfying Japanese Comfort Food
What is Tempura
One of the best cooking methods in Japanese cuisine is deep-fried foods. Japanese deep-fried dishes are growing more popular all over the world and tempura is the most well-known among them. Tempura is a general term referring to a variety of foods such as shrimp, squid, and vegetables dipped into flour and deep-fried in cooking oil. It sounds very simple but tempura is a versatile food whose flavor can be enhanced with just the right ingredients and methods. Even with it's most basic ingredients, tempura is a dish that can satisfy every taste bud and arouse positive feelings with every bite.
Tempura was first brought to Japan by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Today for Japanese, especially families, tempura is a treasured dish. It is easy to make and can be served in any way from everyday meals to high-class gourmet regalements. Most types of vegetables can be used to make tempura meals but the popular ones are lotus root, pumpkin, sweet potato, and eggplant. Tempura has a very eye-catching outlook and is often served with a sweet and salty dipping sauce called tare. In my own opinion, the best ways to enjoy the taste of tempura is to eat it on top of a bowl of rice, called tendon, or with buckwheat noodles called tensoba.
Tendon. Photo by 江戸村のとくぞう (Edomura no Tokuzo) on Wikimedia
How is Tempura Cooked
The main differences between tempura and other types of deep-fried dishes are the ingredients. Many countries add a large amount of spices to their fried foods but Japanese tempura mix is a simpler combination of wheat flour, eggs, and cold water. Any type of oil can be used, but I personally prefer to mix vegetable and sesame oil. The easiest way you can make the mix is by combining 100g of the flour, 120g of water, and one egg into a bowl. The very first strict requirement for a standard tempura dish is that even after being deep-fried, the shape and color of the foods should be kept properly. Although all tempura pieces are wrapped up in a yellow coat of flour, guests still expect to see the red color of shrimp, the white color of squid, the yellow color of sweet potato, or the orange of pumpkin. It means that the flour coat should be crispy enough but also thin enough for guests to see the inside. This eye-catching outlook of tempura depends on if the flour is light enough or not so that the flour coat can be transparent after being fried.
Where's The Best Place to Have Tempura in Japan
Tenya is one of Japan's most popular tempura restaurant chains and the most delicious I have ever eaten. It's a cozy fast food restaurant where you can order a simple bowl of tempura with as many menu items as you like. There are also many different combos of tempura on the menu whose prices are from ¥500–¥1300, depending on what you would like to add. The dish I would recommend is the tendon with udon noodle set. One of my best foreign friends accompanying us fell in love with sweet potato tempura and hardly ate anything else but a big dish of it and a bowl of udon. I laughed when he asked how Japanese people can grow such an amazing food. I like the poached egg tempura which I have never seen in any restaurant anywhere else. Like the rest of Japan, the staff's service is a plus point here.
For more info about Tenya, check out their website.
People traveling to Japan to try new foods are certainly going to achieve their goals when tasting a piece of tempura. You can feel the love people have for this dish with every bite. Every taste from the flour to the oil to the innards is bursting with flavor. Now that you know where to find great tempura, go ahead and try some for yourself.