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Japanese Cuisine: Japanese Fried Food Tempura
History may have recalled Japan as a healthy nation with low use of fat and oil ever since their early civilization and period. Perhaps, due to their way of life and healthy eating habits that many of Japan’s citizens are enjoying long life. Before tempura was introduced in Japan in the mid sixteenth century during the Tokugawa period by Portuguese missionaries, Japanese diet was basically made mostly of fish and vegetables, boiled or steam or made into soup eaten with cooked rice. The use of oil and fat was minimal if none and only vegetable oils were used since the Buddhism and Zen teaching prohibits animal slaughtering and avoid thoroughly the use of animal products.
Tempura is a Japanese dish that uses deep frying as its cooking method and uses ingredients such as fish, seafood, vegetables and sometimes even meats and poultry. Regardless of its origin, tempura has been since its first encounter in Japan became a local authentic cuisine and it can be found in many forms in Japan nowadays. You can find it sold in many restaurants in Japan, both modern or traditional ones, pre-prepared lunch box (Tempura Obento) in department stores and convenient stores as well as the local street vendors. So the price vary greatly too, according to the standard of the shops as well as the ingredients and the degree of freshness of the ingredients used. Ebi (or prawn) is particularly expensive so you should expect to pay more when ordering big prawn of good quality tempura. Here’s an estimated price suggestions (from cheap tempura to moderate priced tempura, anything beyond is rather expensive) of dining with tempura in Japan.
You can also find affordable prices eating at a local Japanese franchise of Tempura dish called Tempura Tenya:-
Tempura ala carte set
(Yasai tempura/ Moriawase tempura/ Ebi tempura) ¥400-¥750
Tendon (tempura served on rice with other side dishes) ¥850-¥1,200
What is special about tempura is probably the batter used in frying the ingredients, although there are many brand names of tempura flour available in the market, nothing beats the original mixture of a homemade ones. It should be fried until crispy and eaten immediately when it’s still hot dipped in a tempura sauce called as tentsuyu sauce in Japanese mixed with grated white radish or Daikon. Traditionally, tempura is cooked in sesame oil; however, it is pretty common of people using vegetable oil or canola oil with heat kept between 160-180 degrees Celsius depending on the ingredients.
Normally, tempura is eaten as it is or commonly served on a bowl of rice which is called ‘Tendon’ , with soba and udon noodles. You’ll probably find more variations and fusions of tempura outside Japan, using non-traditional and unusual ingredients such as broccoli, nori, asparagus and even cheese. I even made some using crabsticks ^0^ but it doesn’t look nearly as the original tempura, doesn’t it? But tempura is certainly suitable for lunch and even dinner.
Yasai Tempura means ‘vegetable tempura’
Moriawase Tempura ‘mixed tempura’