Shrimp Tempura: A “To-die-for” Japanese Classic
Posted: Nov 03 2015
If you’re a shrimp lover, you probably like it served in a variety of ways: fresh, roasted, sautéed, grilled, baked or as shrimp tempura.
shrimp tempura is one of the most popular Japanese dishes served outside of Japan. Here is a dish that takes the palate-pleasing experience of fresh, firm shrimp, battered and deep-fried (with or without veggies) and served as an appetizer, over rice, or over noodles for a mouth-watering snack or as part of a full meal.
What makes shrimp tempura different from other fried foods is its distinctive batter. Instead of breadcrumbs, the batter is made from beaten egg, flour and cold water, making it less greasy than other fried foods. Sometimes oil or spices are added.
Shrimp Tempura is a perfect example of the unique skill the Japanese have of taking a foreign dish and modifying it to Japanese tastes, creating something completely original. This may come as a surprise, but tempura did not actually originate in Japan. The tempura method of frying food was introduced in the 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who created original versions of tempura for Lent, to satisfy the many Christian denominations that are forbidden to eat meat.
Fun fact: the name tempura comes from the Latin ad tempora cuaresme, which means “in the time of Lent.” The Japanese mistook this as the dish’s name and called it tempura.
When tempura was first introduced around the commercial port city of Nagasaki during the Edo period (1615 – 1868), when Japan was isolated from the rest of the world, the technique of frying foods was something entirely new to the Japanese. Unlike almost every other country on earth, there had never been a Japanese tradition of frying foods until tempura was introduced, despite the fact that neighboring China had been preparing fried dishes since the Han dynasty (206 B.C.. – 220 A.D.), and much of China’s culinary practices had come to Japan centuries earlier. For some reason, frying food was not one of these practices.
Sometime in the 18th century, tempura dishes such as shrimp tempura quickly became a popular snack that was served between meals. Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s first shogun, was said to have loved it and possibly died from eating too much tempura. Although this is probably just a tale from Japanese folklore, who among us can think of a better way to go than “death by shrimp tempura?”
Japanese chefs perfected tempura by experimenting with frying fish and vegetables whole, and here is where the snack became truly Japanese, adopting the country’s strong tradition of eating food that’s fresh and kept in its natural state. Once Japanese chefs began frying seafood and vegetables whole, preserving their unique taste and character, it took on its singularly Japanese identity. Over time, tempura went from a between meal snack to a meal in itself.
Today, shrimp tempura is usually served as a finger food snack, as a side dish with dipping sauce, or in a bowl over rice or soba noodles. Once a dish of Portuguese origins, it was reinvented to suit Japanese tastes, creating something totally original that is now considered a traditional Japanese dish—and shrimp tempura is arguably the most popular tempura dish out there.
Fish For Sushi’s shrimp tempura offers easy-to-prepare, gluten-free shrimp tempura, shelled with tail included for a quick and easy appetizer to enjoy any time.
And since shrimp contains healthy protein, omega-3s, natural stores of iodine and no carbohydrates, it plays an important role in a healthy diet. The added bonus is the fact that it’s a delicious classic that pleases every palate.