What is Tempura and Why is it so Delicious?

Tempura. If you don’t know what it is, you’re missing out. For those of you constantly being told by your doctors, teachers, or family members to “eat more vegetables”, we have the perfect unhealthy (but delicious) solution! Tempura is a Japanese dish, usually of vegetables, that have been deep fried in succulent batter. If that doesn’t make the idea of carrots and squash a little easier to stomach, we don’t know what will. Often, chefs will batter and fry seafood (often prawns!) as well, serving as the perfect combination of seafood and veggies. National Tempura Day, celebrated on January 7th, is a wonderful holiday that foodies look forward to every year!

History of Tempura

japanese painting
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Tempura actually goes back over 300-400 years, and it wasn’t exactly a Japanese invention. Props to the Jesuit missionaries from Portugal for introducing the predecessor to the popular Japanese dish! One such inspiration came from peixinhos da horta, or “little vegetable fish”, as the bright bell peppers and squashes that they were made of resembled the colorful, tasty fish of Portugal. Generally made of said squash, and often from green beans, the thick, undipped fritters were popular with the locals.

But with popularity comes some hipster trying to make changes. Street-food vendors, sans trucks and catchy names, began promoting a new Tempura (with less resistance than “New Coke”). This recipe called for a faster mixing in cold water, with minimal spicing in the batter and sauce on the side. This was the final version, and it’s the recipe that we all enjoy today.

Common Foods

The following are some commonly tempura’d foods.

  • Shrimp
  • Carrots
  • Yams/Sweet Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Eggplant

Less Common Foods to Try on National Tempura Day

Tenpura Ice Cream 😍

A photo posted by 🖕🏼Gianni🖕🏼 (@hater164) on

In America, the home of amazing foods, the Japanese method of deep-frying has caught on and spread to other interesting foods. Broccoli, for instance, was a vegetable not known for deep-frying, but of course, this evolved into other, more American takes on the Japanese classic. For instance, many meats, including chicken, and everyone’s favorite, bacon, have begun appearing. Cheese is another food gaining popularity. With tempura, anything can be done. You just have to imagine it.