- What is tempura?
- Types of tempura
- How to make tempura batter
- How to make tempura
- How to make tempura sauce
- How to eat tempura
- How many calories in tempura?
- Is tempura vegetarian?
- Which is the price of tempura?
- Is tempura healthy?
- Tempura restaurants
- What is the origin of tempura?
- Why is tempura popular in Japan?
- Trivia about tempura
What is tempura?
Tempura is a popular Japanese cooking style consisting on battering and deep frying seafood and vegetables. This dish is widely used on many restaurants across Japan and it can be prepared as a side dish or main dish in different meals. Moreover, tempura is also found as topping in noodle dishes or bowls of rice.
The variety of ingredients from which tempura can be made is quite wide. For that reasons, Japanese restaurant try to add to their dishes those battered ingredients which taste combines better with their meals. It is also common to serve a mix tempura vegetables as a side dish.
Types of tempura
As many other Japanese dishes, tempura represents more a cooking method than a specific dish. For that reason it is possible to find many different varieties of tempura depending on the base ingredient. On this section we will show you the different types of ingredients that are commonly used for tempura.
Also called yasai tempura, are commonly serve in many restaurants as a side dish and they are the base for different vegetarian menus. The mix of flavors between the oily fried butter and the soft cooked vegetables makes this tempura the preferred among people from Japan. There are many types based on different popular vegetables of Japanese cuisine.
Takenoko tempura (bamboo shoots)
Bamboo shoots have and interesting flavor and a fine texture. Because of its health benefits and taste, bamboo shoots have many other uses in Japanese cuisine
Kabocha tempura (pumpkin)
Kabocha is actually a winter squash that looks like a small pumpkin. It has sweet taste when its cooked.
Ninjin tempura (carrot)
Carrots are usually cut up and shaped as fries before applying tempura batter.
Nasu tempura (eggplant)
Cooked nasu has a soft texture and exquisite taste that fits perfectly with the tempura fry style.
Kinoko tempura (mushrooms)
Kinoko is the name of different varieties of japanese mushroom, they are famous for their rich and pleasant taste called umami in Japanese
Satsumaimu tempura (sweet potato)
Satsumaimo has an even sweeter taste than kabocha, they can be prepared in many different ways as a dessert. When it is cooked as tempura, the crunchy outside and soft and sweet inside creates a very interesting taste.
Sisho tempura (perilla)
Sisho are leaves from the family of perilla with a soft taste similar to anis or mint.
Ingen tempura (green beans)
Ingen tempura are often treated as fries and dipped in delicious tempura sauce.
Kakiage is actually a mix of vegetables including carrot, green beans, onion, etc that are cover and fried with tempura batter.
Although most of the tempura you will find will be made out of vegetables, ebi (shrimp) is maybe the most popular ingredient when it comes to tempura. But is it not the only seafood prepared using this technique.
Ebi tempura (shrimp)
Ebi is the most popular ingredient for tempura. Traditionally is used as a topping for ramen, udon and other noodle bowls in Japan.
Ika tempura (squid)
Ika tempura is usually made from squid cutted in rings. However, in street markets (mainly during festivals) thy sell full tempura squids on a stick that you can enjoy while walking around.
Kani tempura (crab)
Kani tempura is less common than the previous ones. However can be found in many restaurant as a side dish or topping.
Sakana tempura (fish)
Small fillets of even whole fishes are also prepared as tempura. Among them, the most popular are ayu (sweetfish), whitefish, cod, suzuki (sea bass) and sea perch
Toriten (Chicken Tempura)
Chicken tempura should not be confused with Karaage, which refers to fried chicken (without batter). The combination of meat with fried batter makes this tempura very oily. Probably that’s why is not so popular in Japan. Japanese people tend dislike too oily dishes. However it is a typical dish in Oita Prefecture.
How to make tempura batter
Tempura batter is actually very simple to prepare, it is a mix of wheat flour, salt, baking powder, vegetable oil and water. The video above shows a simple but effective step-by-step tempura batter recipe.
How to make tempura
Preparing tempura requires certain frying skills, apart from that it’s easy peasy. First you need to prepare the batter, second cut the ingredients and finally fry them. If you want your tempura dishes to follow a more traditional japanese presentation (including how to cut different ingredients), we recommend you the following video with a step-by-step recipe of tempura.
How to make tempura sauce
Tempura sauce is called Tentsuyu in Japanese and its recipe has some variations according to the ingredients prepared as tempura and the season. However, the average tentsuyu includes dashi, mirin and soy sauce. In the following video you can see a basic recipe for tempura sauce.
How to eat tempura
The variety on its ingredients make tempura is a extremely flexible food. It can be used as a delicious complement of almost any dish in the Japanese cuisine. In this section we are going to see for different ways of using tempura in our meals
Tempura as side dish
When we think about fried pieces of food, the first thing coming to our brains are fries or chips which are commonly saw as side dishes. Even tempura can be eaten in many ways, it is common to see it as a side dish that garnish meals like tonkatsu . When tempura is used as a side dish is served together with a dipping sauce.
Nigiri sushi is formed by a base of vinegared rice and some other ingredient in the top. The use of tempura ingredients for this type of sushi is very popular in Japan. Usually, ebi (shrimp) and ika (squid) are the types of tempura most common on sushi. If you want to know more about sushi, you can check our article about sushi.
Tempura as topping
Using tempura as a topping or as an extra on japanese noodles likes ramen and udon is almost as popular as using tempura as a side dish. When the batter mixes with the broth of noodle, it loses his crispiness in exchange of absorbing its delicious and intense taste. Many times, tempura can be seen also topping bowls of white rice, that food fomat is called ten-don.
Tempura Rice ball
Tenmusu is the name of a traditional onigiri popular in Nagoya which contains ebi tempura (shrimp). This way of eaten tempura is maybe not so common in other areas of Japan so if you want to enjoy it we recommend you to visit Nagoya, the largest city in the Aichi Prefecture and fourth largest in Japan.
How many calories in tempura?
A constant source of calories of tempura comes from the batter and the frying oil. Apart from that, the calories depend on the main ingredient used. Above there are 3 tables with the nutritional information of different ingredients from vegetable, seafood and meat tempura.
|Calories||Fat (g)||Carb (g)||Prot (g)|
|Takenoko ( bamboo shoots )||10||2||3||1|
|Kabocha ( Pumpkin )||20||2||5||1|
|Nijin ( Carrot )||16||2||4||1|
|Nasu ( Eggplan )||13||2||3||1|
|Kinoko ( Mushrooms )||9||3||2||1|
|Satsumaimu ( Sweet potato )||29||2||7||1|
|Ingen (Green beans)||15||2||3||1|
|Calories||Fat (g)||Carb (g)||Prot (g)|
|Ebi ( Shrimp )||55.1||2.9||3.3||3.5|
|Ika ( Squid )||51||2.3||3.5||5|
|Kani ( Crab )||73||5||2||5|
|Ayu ( Sweetfish )||45||2||2||5.1|
|Suzuki ( Sea Bass )||35||2||2||5|
|Calories||Fat (g)||Carb (g)||Prot (g)|
|Toriten ( Chicken )||57||2.5||3.5||4.3|
Is tempura vegetarian?
Well, if you have been Reading this post until here, the answer should be clear, isn’t it? Tempura can be as vegetarian (or vegan) as their ingredients. Like many other Japanese dishes, tempura is more a way of cooking food than a Japanese specific dish.
Tempura can be made from many ingredients, some of them will fit a vegetarian diet and some of them will not. Therefore, if you want to enjoy vegetarian tempura, use vegetable as main ingredients, choose wheat flour and avoid the recipes that use egg to prepare the batter. Finally, in order to fry your tempura, use vegetable oils like olive oil.
All the ingredients you need to prepare vegetarian tempura are available at any local grocery store, so just buy them and check our here how to make tempura.
Which is the price of tempura?
Although tempura is considered cheap in Japan, as it happens with all dishes that can be done from a wide varieties of ingredients, the final price will depend of the quality and rarity of them. On undon (japanese noodles) restaurants, they offer tempura pieces as extra ingredients with a price between 100-200 yens (1-2 dollars).
Shops specialized on Ten-don (tempura ingredients over a base of white rice), the price of a bowl might oscillate between 600 yens and 2000 yens, depending on the quality of food and popularity of the restaurant
Is tempura healthy?
Unfortunately for healthy eaters, the preparation of tempura implies deep-frying in hot oil. If there is not frying, by definition, there is no tempura. But don’t panic yet! We know that fried stuff is not the healthiest. However, it is possible to include fried food in a healthy diet.
The main problem of fried food is that it absorbs all the fat from the oil. There longer is the frying time, and the hotter is the oil, there more fat will be absorbed. If you want to reduce the fat in your tempura you should:
Use healthy vegetable oils rich in beneficial fat like Omega-3 (e.g. olive oil)
Use the right temperature for frying (375 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius) and keep it constant.
Don’t fry for more than 2 or 3 minutes to avoid too much fat to be absorbed.
Apart from that, you can always choose the best quality and healthiest ingredients for the base of your tempura. Or simply choose those ingredients that fit better your current diet.
Fat is also important for being healthy, so if you want to eat your daily proteins from a steak, then you can garnish it with some tempura veggies. But if you prefer eating salad as main dish, then prepare a nice tempura salmon and shrimp. They can be part of a healthy diet as long as you combine them properly.
In this section we are providing you information about the best restaurants specialized in tempura that you can find in Japan. If you travel to the land of the rising sun, you should check out these places.
Tempura Kondo restaurant
This restaurant is among the 20 best restaurants in Chuo city and probably the best tempura restaurant of that area. Counting with 2 micheling stars, to get a free table on this restaurant you will need to book a couple of months in advance.
Kyoto Gion Tempura Endo Yasaka Honten
This restaurant has around 130 years of history. They are experts on creating a traditional atmosphere that transports you to the old streets of Gion, Kyoto. People eating in this place say that the tempura served in completely different to any other they tried before. If you don’t care so much about money and you want the real Japanese experience you should try this restaurant
Kyoto Nishiki Tempura Sakaba Taneshichi
Among the best restaurants in Nakagyo Area, Kyoto, this place offer delicious sets of tempura at very reasonable prices. If you have a big appetite and you are visition Kyoto, this is certainly a must-to-go place
What is the origin of tempura?
On the 16th century there was an important immigration in Japan consisting on Catholic missionaries and merchants from Portugal. On Catholicism, the last week of each season was a period of praying and fasting. Those 4 periods were called in Latin Quartour Tempora (i.e. Four seasons or four periods). To avoid eating meat and fish and still get energies, Portuguese people were frying vegetables in batter made from flour, water, eggs and salt.
By the beginning of the 17th century, tempura was adopted and adapted by Japanese people as a new style of food cart. They popularized the use of new raw ingredients like fish and meat as tempura. In addition, they started garnishing tempura with daikon (Japanese radish) and using a dipping sauce.
The abundance of seafood ingredients and the development of new extraction techniques that made vegetable oils inexpensive, was hugely involve in the popularization of these food all across Japan.
Why is tempura popular in Japan?
This is actually a good question. When you live in Japan, you realize quite soon that fried food is not the favorite among Japanese people. They don’t like too much oily dishes. So how Japanese people adapted tempura to their taste till its popularity nowadays?
First, ingredients are just slightly battered to avoid the absorption of too much oil
Second, they only consume tempura in small rations. They enjoy the flavor and taste of each piece of tempura rather than it amount
And finally, they use an enormous variety of ingredients for tempura. This is quite typical in Japanese dishes, the variety of ingredients allow you to enjoy many different tastes each time you try the same dish. This is not only good because of the different tastes, but it also let you balance your diet without drastically changing your meals and way of cooking.
Trivia about tempura
Even it is not so common; there are places in Japan in which you can try dessert cooked as tempura. In this section we will mention some of them
Ice cream tempura
Creamy in the inside and crispy in the outside. As you can image, ice cream tempura is a calorie bomb. However, you should try it at least once in your life, because it is delicious.
Very cold ice cream is covered in batter and freeze again until the batter is also frozen. After that it is introduced in very hot oil for several seconds making the outside fried and crispy and keeping the inside frozen.
The so called Momiji tempura is a specialty of Minoo in Osaka Prefecture. This tempura is made out of the leaf of Japanese maple tree mixed with bit of sugar. The sweet salty taste of this dessert is loved both for Japanese and foreigners. It is typically prepared during autumn season by using the red leaves falling from maple trees.