What is Tenkasu?
Tenkasu is the crumbs made of deep-fried flour batter commonly used in Japanese cuisine. Some people call this condiment Agedama, which has a literal meaning of “fried ball” and they are also referred to as tempura flakes.
Making them is pretty easy, although you can simply buy the ready-to-use packages at the market or online.
These crunchies are simple, yet they can complement so many dishes.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to make tenkasu or which one to get if you’re buying pre-made, and a little history about these bits of tempura.
Sometimes, people also call it tempura flakes, because these flaky bits are made of tempura batter. However, the majority of Japanese choose to keep calling it Tenkasu.
There are so many kinds of dishes that can go perfectly with the tempura flakes. You can sprinkle them as toppings on udon, ramen, or yakisoba.
Tenkasu can also elevate some savory pancakes like okonomiyaki and monjayaki with its sense of crunchiness inside the soft batter.
You can also make some tempura with tenkasu. Even you can just sprinkle it on top of your rice.
Are tenkasu and agedama the same?
Tenkasu and Agedama are exactly the same things, but people from different regions in Japan call these tempura scraps by a different name. Tenkasu is used in the western parts of Japan, whereas Agedama is used in the eastern parts.
What are tenkasu tempura flakes made of?
Tenkasu is made of wheat flour, potato starch, shrimp flakes, a little dashi soup, and rice vinegar. Tenkasu is flakes of tempura batter and those are the ingredients for tempura batter. They are then deep-fried in vegetable oil.
History of Tenkasu
The word “tenkasu” is from “ten”, which stands from tenpura (tempura), and “kasu”, which means scraps of waste.
Hence, tenkasu has a literal meaning of “tempura scraps”. According to history, it is indeed the scraps you get from cooking tempura.
As you put the tempura into the wok, you will notice how some bits of the coating batter split away.
It then forms crumbs that are scattered on the surface of the oil.
To cook the next batch of tempura, you need to scoop all these crumbs first to clear out the oil in your wok.
After finishing cooking tempura, people will end up with a small portion of tempura scraps.
They taste so delicious that people think it’s a shame to throw them away. Hence, they started using it as toppings and extra ingredients for many dishes.
Top 3 storebought Tenkasu
Tenkasu can be quite a bother to cook because it takes some effort if you’re not already making tempura.
Not to mention how cooking it would require some special techniques to make it right.
The easiest way to stock up tenkasu in your kitchen is by buying it pre-made.
Some brands provide packaged ready-to-use tenkasu in a plastic package. A lot of people prefer this convenient choice.
If you consider buying a pack of those ready tenkasu, here are some of the most popular brands to check out:
The most popular instant tenkasu brand is Otafuku. It has the perfect crunchiness and savory taste.
Otafuku Tenkasu comes in a plastic package with ziplock, so you can reseal it again if you haven’t finished the whole pack.
Even so, you have about one week to finish your pack of Otafuku Tenkasu.
It’s actually one of my favorite Japanese cooking ingredients:
Yamahide Tempura Flakes
This brand offers two versions of tempura flakes; original and prawn flavored.
The prawn one contains real prawn shavings that enrich the taste even more.
Yamahide Tempura Flakes is quite a favorite for cooking homemade okonomiyaki and as toppings for soup-based dishes such as ramen and udon.
Another brand notable for its tenkasu is Marutomo. Many countries have imported this tenkasu brand. It should be easy to get one in countries outside Japan.
The tempura crumbs are airier and have a lighter taste than other brands, which makes this brand so lovable for some people.
Tempura Batter Mix
The batter used in tenkasu is similar to the batter used for tempura coating.
The only difference is that you need to add beaten eggs in the batter to use as tempura coating.
For easier preparation, many manufacturers provide the tempura batter mix flour.
Some people think it is better to buy the tempura flour than the instant tenkasu, while some others think otherwise.
These two kinds of products indeed have their advantages and disadvantages.
The pre-ready tenkasu might be the best for practicality, but you need to store them properly to keep the crispiness. Also, they won’t last long.
On the other hand, the mixed flour would require effort for cooking, although it is still much easier than making it from scratch.
However, you can cook a little by little as you need it, so you won’t need to worry about spilling the leftovers.
And it’s the best if you were already planning on making some delicious tempura recipes.
If you are considering buying the tempura batter mix, here are some recommended brands:
Kikkoman Tempura Batter Mix
If you look for the batter mix flour to cook it yourself, your best option would be Kikkoman Tempura Batter Mix.
The famous brand never fails to satisfy people with almost each of their products. Their tempura batter mix is no exception.
Just like its name, you can also use this bat mix flour as a coating for your tempura.
Shirakiku Tempura Batter Mix
Another great brand for a tempura batter mix flour is the Shirakiku.
This product is popular because it goes well with almost any kind of tempura; vegetables, fish, shrimp, chicken, and of course, simple tenkasu bits.
You can adjust the lightness of your Agedama crumbs by the amount of water you add to the flour.
Tenkasu "Agedama" Tempura Scraps recipe
- 3½ ounces wheat flour (100 grams)
- 2 tbsp potato starch
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 6½ oz thin dashi soup, chilled (180-200 cc)
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix them well
- Pour in the wet ingredients while keep stirring the batter until they get evenly mixed
- Turn on the stove and wait for the oil to get hot
- Scoop the batter using chopsticks and spread it onto the hot oil by pouring it in a circular motion above the wok
- The batter will separate instantly and pop up to the surface like bubbles
- Scoop all the tenkasu with a wire mesh strainer before they turn overcooked, let all the oil drips
- Place the tenkasu on a plate lined with a paper towel to get all the oil absorbed. Replace the paper towel as necessary
- Wait until the tenkasu dry and on regular temperature
- Store your tenkasu in a perfectly sealed container. It can either be a jar or a ziplock plastic bag.
Samurai Sam’s Kitchen also has a video where you can see how to drip the tempura batter into your oil:
- You can replace dashi with regular cold water and salt
- Use carbonated water to make it even more crunchy
- Either it is dashi, carbonated water, or regular water, make sure they are in cold temperature when you cook as it will affect the crunchiness
- The consistency should be similar to crepe batter. To test your consistency, try dipping your finger in the batter and lifting it. The stream should be a straight line.
- Add more flour if you aim for thicker and bigger bits.
- Try not to overmix the batter as the starch will develop and make your tenkasu not so crunchy
- Be careful when pouring the batter onto the oil as there might be some oil splattering
- Adding too much batter in a wok will make the batter fail to separate. The tenkasu bits will end up bumping and sticking to each other.
- Excess oil that stays in your tenkasu will reduce its crispiness and make it less tasty. So, be sure to get all the excess oil removed from your Agedama crumbs.
Here are some of my favorite ingredients to use in this recipe:
Most popular recipes that use tenkasu
Unlike regular fried flour batter flakes, tenkasu can retain its crispiness even if it mixes with water.
You can pour it into your bowl of soup and enjoy some crisps as you slurp. Japanese also love mixing the tenkasu into some savory cake dishes.
It creates a contrast combination of the crispiness of the tenkasu and the tenderness of the cakes. Try out some ways of using tenkasu for dishes as below:
Traditionally, people use octopus dice as the filling of their takoyaki.
To elevate the taste, you can add along with a piece of pickled ginger and some sprinkle of green onion for more complexity of the taste.
Along with all those fillings, tenkasu will make your takoyaki taste even better. Takoyaki has a soft and creamy texture.
The crunchy bits will give a unique twist when chewing it.
Tenkasu is a key element to Okonomiyaki, the traditional Japanese-style frittata. Okonomiyaki itself is much lovable due to its rich ingredients;
- Japanese yam
- squid or other protein
- tenkasu (for sure!)
- and flour to hold them all together.
Not only do these components create an ultimate savory taste, but they also give varied textures. It feels like a pleasure to eat it.
Udon, Ramen, or Soups
Prepare your dish as usual until your bowl is complete. Adding the tenkasu should be the last step, so it stays at the toppings.
Bear in mind that tenkasu will extend if submerged in water. If you put too much of them into your soup bowl, your tenkasu will fill up your bowl in a few minutes.
Some people mix tenkasu with rice to make onigiri. It is quite a smart move to make your easy packed lunch tastes better.
This simple trick gives a sense of crispiness while chewing the soft rice. Tenkasu onigiri is much beloved especially by children because of the sensation.
You can also sprinkle your tenkasu on your rice or dry noodle meals the same way you sprinkle fried shallots on Asian meals.
Try being creative in your kitchen by making new variations of dishes using tenkasu. These crumbs are versatile enough to match with many kinds of dishes.
What is a good tenkasu substitute?
Instant tenkasu might be unavailable in many countries outside Japan. Even though making them is easy, not many people are willing to do so.
Now, what should you do when the recipe you want to create ask for tenkasu, which you are unable to get?
Tenkasu enhances a dish in two ways. First, it gives a sense of crunchiness.
Second, it adds the savory and umami flavors to the dish, especially if you use prawn or squid tenkasu.
If tenkasu is unavailable, you can either skip the ingredient or find a substitute according to what effects tenkasu you wish to bring on your dish.
- If you aim for the crunchy sense, you can use rice crispies or panko (bread crumbs).
- If you want the umami kick, try replacing the tenkasu with katsuobushi, fried shallot, or aonori.
- You can also combine both the crunchy substitute and the umami substitute to get both of the tenkasu’s traits.
Sometimes, it is even fine to skip the ingredient without any substitute at all.
Tenkasu mostly plays a supporting role. Your dish would likely still taste delicious even if it doesn’t have the tenkasu.
Also, read my full post on tenkasu substitutes to learn more.
Nutritional Value of tenkasu
If you love eating healthy, unfortunately, there is not much hope you can put into the tenkasu. The main ingredient is wheat flour, and it is mostly carbs. Not to mention the frying process will create cholesterol. Tenkasu also contains some sodium.
Even if you add dashi and prawn flakes into the batter, all the vitamins and minerals would likely dissipate during the deep-frying process.
Since tenkasu is not so nutritious, it is important to make sure that the dish you eat tenkasu with has all the nutrition you need for the day.
However, there is no need to worry too much about eating tenkasu.
Although the tempura flakes are not healthy, you can still eat them safely as long as you do not eat too much of them.