Tempura is a dish of lightly battered vegetables and/or seafood that is deep fried and served with a dipping sauce. If you visit any generic Japanese restaurant in North America, tempura will most likely be on the menu.
A Brief History of Tempura
Traditionally, the Japanese prepared their food by steaming, boiling, or stir frying. However, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the country was visited by many travellers. These travellers, particularly of Dutch, English, Spanish and Portuguese descent, brought with them new dietary habits and cooking techniques. Tempura was one of these new cooking techniques, believed to have been introduced by Portuguese Jesuits. In fact, the term “tempura” comes from “tempero”, the Portuguese word for seasoning. (Another theory suggest that “tempura” comes from the word “tempora”, which derives from Ember Days. Ember Days are the days on which to fast and practice abstinence, as defined by the Catholic Church.)
For the best tempura, try visiting a restaurant that specializes in the dish. In Japan, chefs will prepare the tempura in front of you, serving it fresh from the fryer on to your plate. A seasoning other than dipping sauce may accompany the tempura, such as a fine quality sea salt.