Who knew that tempura derived from Portuguese Jesuits in the mid-sixteenth century? The word tempura stems from the Portuguese noun tempero, meaning, “seasoning.” Today, one can still find a a similar dish to Japanese tempura in Portugal called peixinhos da horta, or, “garden fishies.”
For the most part, “tempura” is commonly used to refer to satsuma age, a fried fish cake which is made without batter.
But if you go to a Japanese restaurant here in New York City, you will find that you can order shrimp tempura, shojinage or vegetable tempura, ebi tempura, and chicken tempura.
So what is it?
Tempura are bite sized ingredients that have been lightly battered and fried. The batter is made up of a soft wheat flour like a cake, pastry or all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, eggs, oil, and various seasoning.
Tempura is sometimes served by itself with dipping sauce; but you can also find it in bowls of soba or udon soup, on top of rice (aka donburi) as well as in bento boxes. So look out for these fried delicacies during your next Japanese dining experience!
Tempura is also very easy to make at home; be sure to check out these tempura recipes: