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General Tempura Cooking Method

Batter-dipped fish frying came to Japan aboard Portuguese trading ships in the sixteenth century. The Japanese word tempura most likely evolved from the Portuguese word templo, meaning church, or tempora, for lent. Either way, the connection was the Catholic custom of eating fish, usually fried, on temple or holy days.
By the middle of the Edo period (1603-1867) thousands of outdoor tempura stalls could be found throughout Tokyo. True to Japanese fashion, the Western method of frying fish was adapted and refined to the point that it eventually became more Yamato than European.
Today tempura is served in uncountable Japanese restaurants. The best presentation is found at exclusive tempura counter establishments where for a fixed price you eat your way though course after course of light, grease-free fair, always starting with and ending with tempura of prawns.
Tempura is enjoyed best immediately after being fried. The keys to making really great tempura are simple.
1) Use good quality, clean oil.
2) Cook only the freshest ingredients.
3) Fry at the proper temperature.
4) Serve immediately.
Clean oil. Eating establishments in Japan shun deep-fat fryers--instead keeping two shallow vats of frying oil on hand. One is used for tempura and the other for all other fried items. Good unadulterated vegetable oil (not fryer oil with additives used at many big operations) is rotated from the tempura vat to the catch-all vat when the oil becomes too dark to produce good tempura. Good oil is the key to excellent tempura.
Fresh ingredients. Live shrimp, just caught fish, and vegetables just off the wagon can't be replaced without a notable loss of quality. If live shrimp aren't available, the highest quality frozen product is acceptable.
Proper temperature. Conventional fryers get far too hot for tempura. Batter-dipped items must be dropped into oil that is between 170 and 180 degrees Celsius (340-360 degrees Fahrenheit). Frying too many items at once will result in a sudden loss of temperature and the finished tempura will be greasy. The temperature must remain within the range from start to finish. If the oil temperature is properly observed, the final product will be crisp, light, and not at all greasy.
Immediate service. At fine tempura establishments, the fried items are taken out of the oil, shaken once or twice to remove excess oil and placed directly on a plate in front of the customer. While this level of attention is not possible at most restaurants, cooking each order individually and sending it out of the kitchen right away will do much towards achieving the desired result.


Tempura Batter

Recipe for Tempura dipping sauce

Kombu Katsuobushi Dashi

Classic Tempura Combinations

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