A classic of Japanese cuisine, tempura has a surprising and delicious backstory. For example, did you know that the name of this dish comes from Latin? Keep reading to learn this and other surprising facts about tempura.
What Is Tempura?
Tempura is a typical Japanese dish that consists of food (usually vegetables or seafood) that has been lightly battered and fried.
Some of the foods that typically get the tempura treatment include:
While tempura has a complex history (as we’ll see in the next section), the recipe couldn’t be simpler. Three basic ingredients are enough to make tempura batter: eggs, flour, and chilled water.
Chilled water is essential to achieve the crunchy texture characteristic of the tempura served in the best Japanese restaurants. In fact, a simple way to improve your tempura is by keeping all the batter ingredients cold (including flour) in the fridge overnight.
Where Did Tempura Originate?
One of the reasons Japanese culture is so popular is because it gives the impression of being self-enclosed, achieving a high degree of refinement without any external influences.
The truth is that no culture is an island, and tempura is a good case in point.
The origins of this popular dish date back to the 16th century, when Portuguese sailors were swept off course and wound up on the coasts of Japan.
This was the beginning of a fruitful trade exchange that included goods such as tobacco, firearms, and soap, but also some original cooking ideas.
Being fervent Catholics, the Portuguese observed lent. Since this meant foregoing meat, they had to come up with creative alternatives to keep things interesting. One of such replacement dishes was peixinhos da orta, or “little garden fish,” battered and fried green beans that were good enough to make one forget that meat was off the menu for a while.
The Japanese liked peixinhos da orta and adopted the basic idea, but with a minor change: They called the new dish “tempura” after the Latin term ad tempora quadragesimae, which means “for the time of lent.”
More Appetizing Food Facts From Around the World
At Chef Gourmet, we know good food, and we love sharing that knowledge with you. If we have whetted your appetite for interesting food facts, here are some previous posts you may find interesting:
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- We answer 4 common questions about teriyaki sauce
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