Tempura’s Beginnings: Not Japanese
The tempura is one of the best known dishes even among non-Japanese. Delicious batter wraps around fresh seafood inside as it cooks, and when ready to eat, is dipped in a slightly sweet and slightly tangy sauce. It’s one of the guilty pleasures where it is served. It is not a type of dish, but more correctly, a method of cooking or preparing.
Tempura consist of seafood, either shrimp or white fish deep fried in batter. It’s not just seafoods, but tempura can also be vegetables, like onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, Japanese pumpkin, carrots and green peppers. You can also have kaki-age, a mix of seafood and veggies. However, it is tempura’s batter that makes it distinct from other Japanese fried foods. It doesn’t use bread crumbs and uses less grease. Batter is basically beaten egg, flour and cold water, and sometimes oil, starch or spices may be added.
Did you think tempura is a Japanese dish? The Japanese have that ability to turn foreign foods into something that suits their taste, and they actually borrowed tempura from the Portuguese. When Latin-speaking Portuguese missionaries came to Japan in the 1600s, they introduced this method of frying food, quite unknown to the Japanese at the time. It was basically meant for Lent when eating meat was disallowed observance. It was introduced at the port of Nagasaki when it were only the Dutch, Chinese, and the Portuguese who were allowed to trade with then closed-off Japan. It became a quickly loved snack food, served between meals.
Japanese chefs experimented with frying fish and vegetables whole by the 18th century, differing from the tradition of eating fresh food. The foods preserved their unique taste and character even if they were fried. This is when the popular snack became a meal on its own and has become truly Japanese. Today, tempura is served on a rice bowl called tendon or on top of soba noodles. It is also ordered as a side dish with dipping sauce. Sometimes, other foods are batter-fried tempura style – like sushi rolls, fruit or noodles. The Japanese have turned this dish into their own, loved the world over.
Serving Tempura at Every Table
Love our Tempura Set when you come dine at Sushi in Joy in Bellevue, offering seafoods and assorted vegetables deep fried in oil and served with the traditional dipping sauce. It’s so good you’ll forget it’s not even Japanese in origin.