Tenkasu which literally translates to “leftover from the gods” is tiny bits of deep-fried flour-based batter that has a crunchy texture.
They are one of the main ingredients for dishes like soba, udon, takoyaki, and okonomiyaki.
In this post, I want to take a look at the best tenkasu substitutes, like panko and rice Krispies, for when you don’t have any in your kitchen.
- If you add tenkasu to hot plain soba, then it is called tanuki-soba,
- in a similar fashion udon is then transformed into tanuki-udon,
But in the Kansai region they are called haikara-soba and haikara-udon respectively.
It also goes by another name – agedama, which literally means “fire ball”.
If you want to learn what’s in tenkasu, read my post on tenkasu ingredients and a recipe here.
What can you substitute Tenkasu with?
As it has already been established, tenkasu is a very versatile food ingredient that you can even enjoy as is and without any other addition.
I think I don’t need to state the obvious that it would be very hard to find good substitutes to replace it – even if it’s absolutely necessary (i.e. you cannot find any ready-made tempura batter on the store in your local area).
Not to worry though, because I have a few ideas that might help you with tenkasu scarcity and still be able to enjoy your favorite dishes that require crispy tempura bits.
Panko (Japanese Bread Crumbs)
Panko is a general term for any type of flaky bread crumb that Japanese chefs and home cooks use to make palatable dishes like a crunchy coating for fried dishes.
Panko is a unique type of bread, because it isn’t baked by heat from coal, gas, or microwave but rather by electricity and because of this it creates a bread without a crust.
The baker then grinds the bread into tiny crumbs which can be used for various food production purposes.
It has a similar crispy and crunchy texture than that of the tenkasu, except, it doesn’t have the umami flavor.
But this should not be a handicap as you can just add a dashi broth to it when you mix it with any dish you’ll serve.
Out of all the possible replacements for tenkasu, the panko perhaps is the closest contender among the others here.
Rice Krispies Cereal
Kellog’s Rice Krispies Cereal would also make a good substitute for the tenkasu, as it’s also crispy and crunchy to bite.
However, since it is a Western food concept it is made with sugar/sugar paste, which appeals most to North Americans, Europeans, Australians and other countries that have adopted the Western culture.
Again you can just buy a dashi broth and mix it with the Rice Krispies to serve as a replacement for tenkasu.
Make sure that you add enough dashi to the mix, so you’ll overcome the sweetness of this food item.
Note: in its raw form straight out of the box it may not be as sweet as you’d expect it to be, as milk and extra sugar has to be added to it when consumed normally for like a breakfast.
Therefore the dashi should be able to give it the umami flavor you desire.
Both the okonomiyaki and takoyaki batter have dashi or katsuo (powdered bonito) in them, so they would make a good replacement for the tenkasu.
You just have to make sure that the batter is still in its raw form and the octopus or the other okonomiyaki ingredients haven’t been added to it yet.
Cook them on a flat top grill or a saucepan, then crush them with a mortar and pestle or with just your bare hands to make them tiny crispy bits.
Is it Tenkasu or Agedama?
The NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute conducted a research back in 2003 and found that 68% of the Japanese population called it tenkasu, while only 29% refer to it as agedama.
The reason for the dish acquiring 2 names is, because tenkasu is more popular in western Japan, while agedama is a favorite among eastern Japanese people.
It is just a name preference referring to the same thing in different areas.
Tenkasu are the small, deep fried leavings of tempura batter, which are sometimes called crispy tempura bits.
Tenkasu has become an important ingredient in Japanese cuisine based on recent demand statistics and due to this fact its price has also increased.
In fact, it now has its own store corner in Japanese supermarkets in recent years, and is loved by many nostalgic Japanese folks as it appeals to their hearts and minds.
Tempura is almost as old as the Japanese food culture itself, which is why it is also loved by the Japanese people, and tenkasu – also called crispy tempura bits – is often considered a link or a bridge between traditional and modern food traditions.
Because tenkasu is made from tempura batter, it is integral in supporting a flavorful ingredient to various Japanese cuisines.
Crispy tempura bits go great with Japanese sake.
Simply mix chopped green onions with soy sauce and make it as a dipping sauce for the tenkasu, while you drink sake.
You can also add tenkasu (crispy tempura bits) on top of tofu mixed with wasabi mayonnaise and natto, this will make a good side dish to any meal you’ll prepare.
It makes a great addition to various types of sauces, salads, and sausages.
It’s even delicious on its own without any other dish to mix it with, because it has the umami flavor and eating tenkasu like potato chips is strangely satisfying.