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Tempura Is A Portuguese Creation Not Japanese


On January 7, enjoy a Japanese dish made up of either seafood or vegetables that are battered and deep-fried. Make sure the batter is the right kind for National Tempura Day!

  • Portuguese Jesuit missionaries introduced the recipe for tempura to Japan during the sixteenth century (around 1549).  It is believed that Portuguese Jesuit Tokugawa Isyasu, founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, loved tempura.
  • Since the Genroku era (September 1688 – March 1704) tempura was originally a very popular food that was eaten at street vendors called ‘yatai’.
  • Today, chefs all over the world include tempura dishes on their menus using a wide variety of different batters and ingredients including the nontraditional broccoli, zucchini and asparagus as well as dry fruits.
  • Some meats, usually chicken and cheeses, particularly mozzarella are known to be served tempura-style in some American restaurants.
  • For sushi lovers, a more recent variation of tempura sushi has the entire pieces of sushi being dipped in batter and tempura-fried.
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, reportedly loved tempura.
  • The word “tempura”, or the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them, comes from the word “tempora”, a Latin word meaning “times”, “time period” used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period or Ember Days (ad tempora quadragesimae), Fridays, and other Christian holy days.
  • Outside Japan (as well as recently in Japan), there are many nontraditional and fusion uses of tempura. Chefs over the world include tempura dishes on their menus, and a wide variety of different batters and ingredients are used, including the nontraditional broccoli, zucchini, asparagus and chuchu.
  •  More unusual ingredients may include nori slices, dry fruit such as banana, and ice cream. American restaurants are known to serve tempura in the form of various meats, particularly chicken, and cheeses, usually mozzarella.
  • Though etymologists are not absolutely certain, it is likely that the word ‘tempura’ came from the Portuguese ‘tempêro’, which means ‘seasoning’.
  • Tempura is either eaten with dipping sauce, salted without sauce, or used to assemble other dishes. Tempura is commonly served with grated daikon and eaten hot immediately after frying.
  • Vegetable oil or canola oil are most common; however, tempura was traditionally cooked using sesame oil.
  • Oil temperature is generally kept between 320-356 F, depending on the ingredient, to preserve the natural flavor and texture of the ingredients.
  • The most popular seafood tempura is probably ebi (shrimp).
  • To help the batter stick even better, you can sprinkle the item to be fried with a little bit of kosher salt before dredging it.
  • Tempura Was the First Method of Deep Frying Food in Japan. Prior to the Portuguese teaching Japanese chefs the art of tempura, there was no established method for deep-frying food in the nation. However, this lack may be the reason Japanese cooks were so ready to incorporate the technique into their culinary practices. Though other methods of frying have since been introduced, tempura remains the most popular frying method in Japan.


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