What is Tempura?
Tempura is a fried dish that's made with varieties of vegetables and seafood such as shrimp, carrot, and eggplant, which are coated with tempura batter. It's one of the most common and popular traditional Japanese foods in the country since the Edo Period. In the present day, tempura is served in all kinds of places: traditional Japanese restaurants, cuisines that are specialized in tempura, as well as at home. Along with other traditional foods such as sushi and soba noodles, tempura is a dish that represents the taste of Japan.
Tempura is said to have been introduced to Japan during the Muromachi Period by the Portuguese, around the same time western guns were introduced to the country. One theory regarding the origin of its name is that it comes from the word quatro temporas, which refers to the period of Lent in Christianity. Tempura as it's known today made its first appearance in the late 17th century. During this time, easier access to cooking oils made fried foods a part of everyday life among the common people. This was when tempura joined foods such as sushi and soba as one of the well-known and popular fast foods in Japan.
How to enjoy
The standard tempura uses seasonal vegetables and seafood, but did you know that ingredients like cheese, egg and even fruits make good tempuras as well? There is even an Age Manju, a steamed dumpling with sweet fillings which is fried into a tempura.
Tempura is not only eaten by itself, but topped on rice it becomes a delicious Tendon or Tenju (tempura rice bowl). The variety is countless. Try making tempura with leftover vegetables and other foods in the refrigerator, and you might happen to discover something new and delicious.