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Japan's Best-Kept Secret: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Tempura in Japan!

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This article guides you through the world of tempura, a crispy, deep-fried delicacy from Japan, originally influenced by Portuguese cooking techniques. Tempura involves coating seafood or vegetables in a light batter and frying them to perfection. Each type of tempura offers a unique blend of flavors and textures, from the tender shrimp of Ebi Tempura to the crunchy lotus root slices in Renkon Tempura.


Welcome to the world of tempura, Japan's crunchy culinary wonder! This iconic dish has captivated both locals and travelers alike for centuries with its light, crispy texture and diverse range of ingredients.

From its fascinating origins as a Portuguese import to the specialized tempura restaurants dotting Japan today, this deep-fried delicacy is truly a must-try for any foodie or curious traveler.

Key Takeaways

  • Tempura is a beloved Japanese dish made by deep - frying seafood, vegetables, or other ingredients in a light batter known for its crispy texture that perfectly complements the delicate flavors of the ingredients.

  • The origins of tempura can be traced back to Portuguese missionaries who introduced their deep - frying techniques to local cuisine during the 16th century. From there, Japanese chefs adapted these techniques and integrated native ingredients like seafood and seasonal veggies into their dishes while perfecting the lightness and crispiness that defines today's popular tempura.

  • To truly appreciate tempura's art, a visit to one of Japan's specialized tempura-ya restaurants is a must where diners can sample an extensive array of seafood and vegetable tempuras made using fresh locally-sourced ingredients. Indulge in different dipping sauces such as tentsuyu or ponzu sauce when relishing this dish!

Discovering Tempura: What Is It And Why Should You Try It?

discovering tempura

Tempura is a beloved Japanese fried food dish made by deep-frying seafood, vegetables, or other ingredients in a light batter; it's known for its light and crispy texture that perfectly complements the delicate flavors of the ingredients.

The Origins Of Tempura

Tempura is a culinary delight loved by many both in Japan and across the world, but not everyone knows about its fascinating origins. The roots of this iconic Japanese dish can be traced back to the 16th century during the Age of Exploration.

Contrary to what might be expected, tempura did not originate from traditional Japanese cooking methods. Instead, it was inspired by Portugal's fritter-cooking style called 'peixinhos da horta,' which translates to 'little fish from the garden.' The method involved dipping vegetables into a batter before frying them at high temperatures until crispy and golden.

The name 'tempura' itself has an interesting etymology; some believe it comes from Portuguese words such as 'tempero,' meaning seasoning or spice blend, while another theory suggests that it derived from 'temporas,' related to a Catholic religious practice of eating fish on certain days instead of meat.

The Perfectly Fried Delight

The key to outstanding tempura lies in its perfectly fried exterior, creating a delightful crunch that encases the tender ingredients within. Achieving this highly sought-after texture requires precision in temperatures and technique.

The secret lies in using a light batter made from flour, water, and sometimes eggs or other ingredients. These are popular tempura ingredients.

To fry tempura like a master chef, oil heated to an exact temperature plays a crucial role; typically around 340-375°F (170-190°C). Once the batter-coated seafood or vegetables are submerged into the hot oil, they cook quickly due to high heat exposure.

As they turn golden-brown after just one or two minutes of cooking, maintaining their delicate flavors without becoming greasy or heavy on the palate.

The Variety Of Tempura Types Available

types of tempura

Tempura is a versatile dish that offers a plethora of types to suit any palate, making it an exciting culinary adventure for food enthusiasts. Here are some popular tempura variations to explore:

  1. Ebi Tempura: Deep fried shrimp, often considered the most iconic tempura dish.

  2. Kisu Tempura: Delicate white fish with a mild flavor, perfect for those new to seafood tempura.

  3. Ika Tempura: Squid with a pleasant chewy texture and subtle taste.

  4. Nasu Tempura: Eggplant slices with a soft and slightly sweet interior beneath the crispy coating.

  5. Kabocha Tempura: Japanese pumpkin showcasing a wonderful contrast between the tender inside and crunchy exterior.

  6. Shiitake Tempura: Earthy and flavorful mushrooms that offer an appealing meaty bite.

  7. Renkon Tempura: Lotus root slices that boast an intriguing mix of textures - crunchy outside with a starchy core.

  8. Shiso Tempura: Aromatic shiso leaves featuring their distinctive mint-like flavor encased in a light batter.

  9. Anago Tempura: Sea eel prized for its tender flesh and umami-rich essence.

  10. Sweet Potato Tempura: Nutty, sweet, and satisfying - this variation appeals to both vegetable lovers and dessert aficionados alike.

As you explore these various tempuras, remember that each type highlights different ingredients and techniques within Japanese cuisine, promising a delightful eating experience every time you indulge in this deep-fried wonder.

Savoring The Best Tempura At Top Restaurants

Indulge in the ultimate tempura experience by visiting some of Japan's top-rated restaurants that serve tempura.

Must-Try Tempura Restaurants In Japan

If you're a foodie planning a trip to Japan, then trying out some of the country's best tempura restaurants is an absolute must. Here are some of our top picks:

  1. Tenmasa - located in Tokyo, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves up some of the most delicious Japanese, beautifully plated tempura dishes you can find.

  2. Ten You - situated in Kyoto, this restaurant focuses on serving seasonal ingredients and has been around for over 90 years.

  3. Tempura Miyashiro – this Tokyo restaurant is truly unique. Surrounded by 100-year-old row houses and corrugated iron, there is no signboard or anything, and the appearance of the store makes you wonder if this is a store.

Whether you're looking for a high-end dining experience or something more casual, these must-try tempura restaurants are sure to leave your taste buds satisfied and craving more!

Experiencing 'The Ultimate Tempura Experience'

To truly appreciate the art of tempura and enjoy the ultimate tempura experience, a visit to one of Japan's specialized tempura-ya is a must. These restaurants focus solely on serving different varieties of crispy, deep-fried delights.

One such restaurant is Tokyo's Tempura Kondo, renowned for its exceptional quality and service. Here, diners can sample an extensive array of seafood and vegetable tempura dishes that have been meticulously crafted to perfection.

From plump shrimp to tender squid and earthy root vegetables like taro or sweet potato - every bite is guaranteed to be an explosion of taste sensation enjoyed with tentsuyu dipping sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi.

Tips And Tricks For Eating Tempura Like A Pro

eating tempura

Master the art of using chopsticks, learn about dipping sauces and pairings, and discover whether to eat tempura as a side dish or main course.

Mastering The Art Of Using Chopsticks

If you're planning to try tempura during your visit to Japan, it's important to know how to use chopsticks properly. Here are some tips to help you master the art of using chopsticks:

  1. Hold the chopsticks towards the end with your dominant hand and use your other hand to stabilize them.

  2. Use your thumb and middle finger to hold one chopstick and your index finger to hold the other.

  3. Practice picking up small pieces of food like edamame or rice before moving on to more complex dishes like tempura.

  4. When eating tempura, hold the piece with one chopstick and dip it into tentsuyu sauce using the other.

  5. Avoid pointing your chopsticks at others, waving them around, or using them to stab or skewer food.

By following these simple tips, you can enjoy your tempura meal like a pro and impress your dining companions with your newfound chopstick skills!

Dipping Sauces And Pairings

Tempura is best enjoyed with a variety of dipping sauces and pairings that enhance its flavors. Here are some tips on how to enjoy tempura like a pro:

  1. Tentsuyu: This is the most common dipping sauce for tempura, made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi. It provides a salty-sweet umami flavor that complements the lightness of the tempura batter.

  2. Lemon Wedges: Squeezing fresh lemon juice over tempura adds a tangy citrus taste that cuts through the oiliness of deep-fried food and offers a refreshing palate cleanser.

  3. Salt and Pepper: Sprinkling sea salt or ground pepper over tempura adds extra flavor and texture to the dish.

  4. Matcha Salt: This unique seasoning combines powdered green tea leaves with salt to create a flavorful condiment that pairs well with vegetable tempura.

  5. Soba Tsuyu: This lighter dipping sauce is made from soy sauce, mirin rice wine, dashi stock, sake, and sugar. It's perfect for pairing with shrimp or seafood tempura.

  6. Ponzu Sauce: This tangy citrus-based sauce made from soy sauce combined with yuzu juice or other citrus juices enhances the flavors of vegetables like eggplant or sweet potato.

  7. Umeboshi Plum Paste: Adding a dollop of this sour paste made from Japanese plums will give your tempura an explosion of flavor that works particularly well with shrimp or squid.

  8. Rice Bowl or Noodle Soup Pairing: Tempura can be served as a standalone dish, but it also makes an excellent topping for rice bowls or noodle soup dishes like udon, soba, or ramen.

By experimenting with different dipping sauces and pairings, you can customize your tempura eating experience to suit your taste buds and preferences while taking advantage of its versatility as an ingredient in various dishes.

Eating Tempura As A Side Dish Or Main Course

Tempura is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as both a side dish or main course. As a side dish, tempura makes for the perfect addition to any meal and adds an element of variety to your dining experience.

On the other hand, eating tempura as a main course is also popular among locals and tourists alike. Some restaurants specialize solely in serving different varieties of tempura ranging from seafood such as shrimp, squid, and fish to vegetables like pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, and more.

Regardless of how you choose to enjoy it - whether as a side dish or main course - tempura is an extremely popular food item on most menus at Japanese restaurants around the world that tickles your taste buds with its delicate flavors while satisfying cravings with its deep-fried goodness.

The Evolution Of Tempura: From Portuguese Origins To Global Popularity

Tempura has an interesting history that dates back to the Portuguese, and this blog section will take you on a journey of its evolution into one of Japan's most beloved dishes.

Discover unique tempura variations and learn about how it became popular around the world.

Tempura's History And Evolution In Japanese Cuisine

Tempura's history can be traced back to the 16th century when Portuguese missionaries arrived in Japan with batter frying techniques. The Japanese soon adopted and refined these methods, eventually creating their own unique version of tempura that became a staple of Japanese cuisine.

Today, there are specialized restaurants dedicated solely to serving up delicious varieties of tempura within Japan called Tempuraya. With its light crispy texture and delicate flavors, it's no surprise that tempura remains one of the most popular dishes among locals and tourists alike seeking to experience authentic Japanese cuisine.

Unique Tempura Variations To Try

Looking to try something new and exciting when it comes to tempura? Check out these unique variations:

  1. Cheese Tempura: Yes, you read that right! Cheese tempura is a popular variation in Japan made with different types of cheeses like mozzarella, cheddar, and even blue cheese.

  2. Sakura Ebi Tempura: These tiny dried shrimps are a specialty of the Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan. When fried as tempura, they become crispy snacks bursting with umami flavor.

  3. Dessert Tempura: Tempura isn't just for savory dishes anymore! Sweet potato or kabocha squash are common choices for dessert tempura, but you can also try fruits like strawberries or bananas.

  4. Kakiage Tempura: This variation consists of small pieces of various vegetables mixed together and deep-fried into a fritter-like texture. It's often served as a side dish or topping for rice bowls.

  5. Mochi Tempura: Soft and sticky mochi rice cakes become crispy on the outside when fried in tempura batter. Try them with savory fillings like shrimp or veggies for a unique twist on this classic dish.

With so many delicious and unexpected variations, it's no wonder that tempura remains one of Japan's most beloved culinary delights!

The Perfect Combination: Tempura And Sushi

tempura and sushi

Savor the complimentary taste of crispy tempura with soft, flavorful sushi.

Savoring Seafood And Vegetable Tempura

One of the best things about tempura is its versatility when it comes to ingredients. Seafood and vegetables are two popular options that make for a tasty and satisfying meal.

For seafood lovers, tempura shrimp is a must-try dish. The succulent texture of the shrimp pairs perfectly with the light and crispy batter, creating an unforgettable taste experience.

For vegetarians or those looking to add some greens to their diet, vegetable tempura is a colorful and vibrant option. From sweet potato slices to crispy green beans, there are various veggies that can be dipped in batter and fried until golden brown.

Seasonal vegetables like eggplant or pumpkin can also highlight local produce while providing a unique twist on traditional tempura dishes.

The Delight Of Shrimp Tempura

Shrimp tempura is undoubtedly one of the most popular varieties of tempura, enjoyed by foodies and seafood lovers around the world. Shrimp tempura is typically made with fresh prawns coated in a light batter mixture of flour, egg, and water before being deep-fried to perfection.

In Japan, shrimp tempura is often served as part of an assorted platter alongside other types of seafood like squid or fish. It can also be used as a topping for udon noodles or sushi rolls.

Creative Takes On Traditional Tempura With Chicken

Chicken tempura is a popular variation of the classic tempura dish. The crispy coating and tender chicken inside make for a delicious combination that appeals to both locals and tourists.

One creative take on traditional chicken tempura is the addition of spicy flavors. Some restaurants will add spices like cayenne pepper or chili powder to the batter, or even serve it with a side of hot sauce for dipping.

Another twist on chicken tempura is using different cuts of meat, such as thigh or breast meat, which can result in varying textures and flavors.

Conclusion: Why Tempura Is A Must-Try Japanese Food For Foodies Everywhere

In conclusion, tempura is a dish that should not be missed by any foodie visiting Japan. Its crispy texture and savory taste make it an essential part of Japanese cuisine and culture.

From the traditional tempura at top restaurants to unique variations with chicken or seafood, there's something for everyone to love about this deep-fried delicacy.


Tempura is a Japanese dish that consists of lightly battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, or meat. It is a popular Japanese delicacy that has also gained popularity outside of Japan.

Seafood like shrimp, squid, and fish, as well as vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, and eggplant, are common ingredients used in tempura. Meat like chicken and pork can also be made into tempura pieces.

Tempura is made by coating the ingredients in a batter made of wheat flour, cornstarch, and ice-cold water. The batter is then deep-fried in hot oil until it is crispy and golden brown.

Tempura is said to have originated in the southern Japanese region of Nagasaki. It was introduced to Japan by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century and was initially made with only vegetables. It gained popularity in the Edo period and became a popular Japanese dish.

Some different types of tempura include fish and shrimp tempura, vegetable tempura, and mixed tempura with a variety of ingredients. Tempura can be made with different types of batter, such as a lighter and crispier batter or a thicker and fluffier batter.

Tempura is often served as a main dish or as part of a set menu with rice, soup, and pickles. It is also common to sit at the tempura counter where the ingredients are cooked in front of you and served one piece at a time.

Tempura can be eaten plain or with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, grated daikon radish, or ginger. Some also like to add a sprinkling of salt or dipping the tempura in a mix of salt and green tea powder.

Tempura is a deep-fried dish, so it is not considered to be a healthy food. However, it can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Yes, vegetarians can eat tempura made with vegetables like sweet potato, pumpkin, and eggplant. Some restaurants also offer vegetarian tempura made with tofu or mushroom.

The best way to eat tempura is to enjoy it while it is still hot and crispy. It is recommended to eat the tempura quickly after it is served for the best texture and flavor.

Yes, tempura is a popular Japanese dish outside of Japan, and many Japanese restaurants around the world offer tempura on their menu.