Tempura in Japan

A week doesn’t go by without tempura of some sort being eaten in my house. And when I’m out and about hardly a day goes by that I don’t catch myself snacking on tempura, somewhere.

Coming from upstate New York, I had never heard of, let alone seen tempura until I arrived in Japan. So, I naturally assumed it was a Japanese invention.

Light and soft, golden-tanned tempura or browned, crunchy tempura. Have your choice, they’re all delicious. There’s battered fried shrimp tempura, onions, peppers, carrots, pumpkin, green beans and probably any vegetable you can think of tempura. You won’t walk a city block anywhere in Japan without seeing a sign advertising tempura or smelling tempura being cooked at someone’s house.

Well, I don’t cook the stuff, I’m just a consumer. So, I decided to do some research and provide links for those of you who are into cooking. Lo and behold I made a discovery. Tempura was introduced to Japan way back in the 16th Century by the Portuguese.

Now I’m thinking Japan may not be the best place in the world for tempura. It could be Portugal or even Brazil for all I know. The only thing I know for sure is the folks in upstate New York don’t know what they’re missing!

Try making your own:

About.com’s tempura batter recipe

Cooking.com’s tempura vegetables with dipping sauce

Read more:
A guided tour of Chicago’s street food
Okinawa: the far South in Japan
Britain’s ten favourite foods

About the author

Michael Lynch
Mike is a freelance photographer and writer who has been living in Okinawa, Japan for over 30 years.
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10 Comments

  • Very interesting! I love tempura but I didn’t know anything about its history.

    I read that the Portuguese and Spanish introduced battered fish to the UK as well, so our famous British ‘fish and chips’ is actually not so British after all.

  • That’d make another Best Seller book. I’ll bet there’s hundreds of foods around the world with some surprising origins !

  • It makes me hungry just reading your words. I love tempura.

  • I love tempura. It’s also quite popular here in Korea. That probably has something to do with japan occupying Korea for so long.

  • Nuria

    Wow….I gotta try this!! :p
    Very nice!!

  • Inka and Nuria, thank you. Try the recipes and let us know how it goes.

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • Tempura! Yum!

  • Sophie,
    It wouldn’t surprise me if Norway had tempura, years before it hit the coasts of Japan!

  • Nancie,
    Sorry I missed you way up there. Now, Korea reminds me of the world’s best kimchee. Wonder why nobody ever invented a Kimchee-dog? You wouldn’t need ketchup, mustard or sauerkraut !

    Cheers,
    Mike

  • This was such an interesting post! Being a foodie, I had no idea that tempura did not originate in Japan. If I ever travel to the other areas that tempura possibly originated from I will be sure to try some! Great post, thank you for sharing!

    -Sara

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