What Is Tempura?
Although tempura is a popular appetizer or side in Japanese culture, it actually originated in Portugal. Around the end of the 16th century, Portuguese missionaries residing in Nagasaki introduced the locals to this “frittering” technique of frying food. As time went on, the heavy batter evolved into the lighter, crispier style found today on many a Japanese food cart. Unlike the original version, today’s tempura is also served with a tasty dipping sauce.
In order to create tempura batter, you simply use water, flour and egg. Although it sounds easy enough, the technique itself is delicate; in order to get the perfect, crispy texture you need to be careful crafting the batter just right. If the batter is over-mixed, the tempura will come out too heavy. If it is under-mixed, it won’t have enough air bubbles in it to give the tempura that perfectly airy crunch. The batter also needs to be fresh, needing to make it immediately before using. If it isn’t fresh and goes flat, it is no longer usable.
You can make tempura with any number of delicious ingredients. Seafood like scallops and shrimp are classic choices, but why stop there? Fry some leafy greens or herbs; dip tasty vegetables like asparagus, broccoli and cucumber; or even attempt to make kakiage by chopping a variety of vegetables and frying them in a ball.
If you would like to try your hand at making your own batter, you might want to consider purchasing specialty tempura flour. While this isn’t a necessity, it does make it easier to achieve the delightful crispness of well-fried tempura. And, of course, pay close attention to the technique described above in order to achieve the perfect batter consistency!