Tempura: What Is It And Where Did It Originate?

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The deep-fried batter and seafood or vegetables combination is one of the most popular Japanese dishes worldwide. But there’s more to it than just the deliciousness.

Tempura is a Japanese dish of deep-fried seafood and vegetables which is served as an appetizer or a side dish. It’s usually served in a tentsuyu sauce which is a broth made of dashi (fish stock), mirin (sweet rice wine), and soy sauce. The dish is usually served with chopsticks and a spoon.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything there is to know about tempura including its history, ingredients, and health benefits.

What is tempura

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The Deliciousness of Tempura

Tempura is a dish that is enjoyed all over the world, from Japan to the Middle East and beyond. It’s a delicious way to enjoy vegetables and seafood, and it’s a great way to add a bit of crunch to your meal. 

What is Tempura?

Tempura is a type of fried food that originated in Japan. It is made by lightly coating vegetables (best vegetables for tempura here) or seafood in a batter made from wheat flour, eggs, and cold water. The batter is then deep-fried in vegetable oil, giving it a crunchy texture. 

The History of Tempura

Tempura has been around for centuries. It was first introduced to Japan by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. Since then, it has become a popular dish in many countries around the world. 

How to Enjoy Tempura

Tempura is usually served with a dipping sauce, such as soy sauce or ponzu. It can also be enjoyed on its own, or with a side of rice. Here are some tips for enjoying tempura:

– Make sure to fry the tempura in hot oil for a crispy texture.

– Serve the tempura with a side of rice or noodles.

– Add a bit of spice to the tempura batter for an extra kick.

– Experiment with different types of vegetables and seafood for a unique flavor.

– Enjoy tempura with a dipping sauce of your choice.

The Art of Making Delicious Tempura

The Preparation

Making tempura is an art form, and with a few simple ingredients you can create a delicious treat! Here’s what you’ll need:

– Iced water

– Eggs

– Soft wheat flour (cake, pastry, or all-purpose flour)

– Baking soda or baking powder (optional)

– Vegetable oil or canola oil

– Assorted vegetables or seafood

The trick to making tempura is to mix the batter quickly and keep it cold. This will keep the batter light and fluffy when it’s fried. You can use sparkling water instead of plain water for a similar effect.

When you’re ready to fry, dip the vegetables or seafood in the batter and then fry them in hot oil. Sesame oil or tea seed oil will give the tempura a unique flavor.

The Finishing Touches

Once your tempura is fried, it should be a pale white, thin, and fluffy – yet crunchy! To make sure your tempura is extra tasty, you can sprinkle it with sea salt or a mixture of powdered green tea and salt.

You can also use tempura to create other dishes. Try serving it over soba noodles, in a bowl of udon soup, or as a topping for rice.

What to Use

When it comes to tempura, the possibilities are endless! Here are some of the most popular ingredients to use:

– Prawns

– Sweetfish

– Conger eel

– Various fish species

– Whiting

– Japanese whiting

– Sea bass

– Bell pepper

– Broccoli

– Butternut squash

– Burdock

– Kabocha squash

– Lotus root

– Seaweed

– Shishito pepper

– Shiso leaf

– Sweet potato

So, what are you waiting for? Get creative and whip up a batch of delicious tempura today!

The Fascinating History of Tempura

From Portugal to Japan

It all started with a dish called “Peixinhos da Horta” (Little Fishes from the Garden), the Portuguese ancestor of Japanese tempura. Portuguese and Spanish missionaries brought the technique of deep-frying with a batter of flour and eggs to Nagasaki in the late 16th century. This was a way to follow the fasting and abstinence rules of Catholicism during the quarterly ember days. 

The Evolution of Tempura

The early 17th century saw a remarkable change in the ingredients and preparation of tempura in the Tokyo Bay area. To preserve the delicate taste of seafood, tempura used only flour, eggs, and water as ingredients. The batter was not flavored and was mixed minimally in cold water, resulting in the crispy texture that is now characteristic of tempura. Before eating, it was customary to dip tempura quickly in a sauce mixed with grated daikon. 

In the Meiji period, tempura was no longer considered a fast food item but developed as a high-class cuisine. 

The Shogun’s Favorite Dish

Tempura quickly became the favorite dish of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa/Edo era. He was so obsessed with it that he even had a special Tempura Day every month, where he’d invite all his friends to come over and enjoy some delicious batter-fried goodness.

The Origin of the Name

The word “tempura” comes from the Latin word “tempora” meaning “times” or “time period”. This was used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period, Fridays, and other Christian holy days. There is also a dish in Portugal similar to tempura called “Peixinhos da Horta” (Garden Fishes), which consists of green beans dipped in a batter and fried. 

Today, the term “tempura” is widely used to refer to any food prepared using hot oil, including some already existing Japanese foods. In western Japan, it is also commonly used to refer to satsuma-age, fried surimi fish cake which is made without batter. 

So there you have it! The fascinating history of tempura – from its Portuguese roots to its evolution as a high-class cuisine in Japan. Who knew something so delicious could have such an interesting history?

Tempura Around the World

Tempura has become a global phenomenon, with chefs all over the world adding their own spin to the dish. From tempura ice cream to tempura sushi, the possibilities are endless. In Bangladesh, pumpkins or marrows are often deep-fried with a gram of rice flour spice mix, creating a Bengali-style tempura known as kumro ful bhaja. In Taiwan, tempura is known as tiānfùluó and can be found in Japanese restaurants all over the island. A similar-sounding dish, tianbula, is usually sold at night markets. 


Tempura Vs Panko

Tempura and panko are two popular types of breading used in Japanese cuisine. But what’s the difference between them? Well, tempura is a light, airy batter made from a combination of flour, eggs, and cold water. It’s usually used to coat vegetables, seafood, and other ingredients before deep-frying. On the other hand, panko is a type of breadcrumb made from white bread without the crusts. It’s coarser and crunchier than tempura, and it’s often used to give fried foods a crispy texture.

So if you’re looking for a light and airy coating, tempura is your go-to. But if you want something crunchy and crispy, panko is the way to go. It’s like the difference between a fluffy omelette and a crunchy hash brown – tempura is the omelette and panko is the hash brown! And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try both? You’ll get the best of both worlds!

Tempura Vs Katsu

Tempura and katsu are two popular Japanese dishes, but they couldn’t be more different. Tempura is a type of deep-fried vegetable or seafood coated in a light batter, while katsu is a breaded and fried cutlet of meat or fish. Tempura is usually served with a dipping sauce, while katsu is usually served with a thick, sweet and savory sauce.

When it comes to crunch, tempura takes the cake. Its light batter gives it a crisp and airy texture, while katsu’s breading is heavier and crunchier. But when it comes to flavor, katsu is the clear winner. Its thick sauce adds a savory kick that tempura just can’t match. So if you’re looking for a crunchy snack, tempura’s the way to go. But if you’re after a flavorful meal, katsu’s the one for you.


What Is The Difference Between Tempura And Fried?

Tempura is a style of fried food that originated in Japan. It’s made with a simple batter of flour, eggs, and ice water, which creates a light, delicate crust around whatever it’s coating. Usually this is shrimp or vegetables. Fried food, on the other hand, is anything that has been cooked in hot oil. It can be anything from french fries to chicken wings. The main difference between tempura and fried food is the batter. Tempura has a light, delicate crust, while fried food has a thicker, crunchier coating. So if you’re looking for a light and airy treat, tempura is the way to go. But if you’re looking for something crunchy and flavorful, fried food is the way to go!

Can Vegans Eat Tempura?

Can vegans eat tempura? The answer is a resounding yes – as long as it’s made with veggies! Traditional tempura recipes are usually vegan-friendly, as they use a simple combination of iced or sparkling water and low-gluten flour. Plus, you can always jazz it up with spices and sodium bicarbonate for extra flavor and texture. Just make sure to ask if eggs are used in the batter mix before you order – some restaurants may use them, so it’s best to double-check. So go ahead and indulge in some delicious tempura – it’s totally vegan-friendly!

Is Tempura Healthier Than Fried?

Tempura is definitely a healthier alternative to most fry batters. It uses less oil for frying, creating less grease and a lighter, airier dish. Plus, it has a decent amount of protein too. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fattening. If you eat more calories than your body needs, it’ll store that extra fuel as body fat. So, if you’re looking for a healthier fried option, tempura is the way to go. Just watch your portion size and calorie intake, and you’ll be golden!

Is Tempura Sushi Cooked Or Raw?

Tempura sushi is cooked because the fish or vegetables are coated. intempura batter and then fried, that’s tempura. So instead of using raw fish you get some crispy fried fish inside a roll.


Tempura is a delicious and unique Japanese dish that has been around for centuries. It’s a light and crispy batter that’s usually made with iced water, eggs, and flour, and can be used to coat vegetables, seafood, and more. Whether you’re a sushi connoisseur or a beginner, tempura is definitely worth a try! So, don your apron, grab your chopsticks, and get ready to TEMPT your taste buds!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.