History Of Tempura & Japanese Fried Foods


shrimp tempura dish

Tempura is one of the most popular Japanese fried food made from fish and fresh food ingredients like prawn, whitefish, and pumpkin. To prepare Tempura, first you have to prepare a batter made of eggs, flour and water and then deep fry them.
You can enjoy Tempura with salt or with sauce made up of sweet cake, soup base, and soy sauce. 

The Japanese people have this great ability to modify foreign food and create something unique and you will be amazed to know, Tempura is one such cuisine. 

This technique of frying food was first introduced in the 17th century by the Portuguese missionaries. 

The original food dish disappeared with time, but it was a unique meal meant for Lent, when several Christian denominations were forbidden to eat meat.

Old Japanese Frying Technique

Japanese frying techniques


In fact, the name ‘Tempura’ arrived from the Latin ad called temporal cuaresma, and it means ‘in the era of Lent. 'The Japanese people mistook this as the cuisine name and called it as tempura. Tempura was first introduced around the commercial old city of Nagasaki. 

At that point of time, the Japan region was closed off from the entire world. Its only way out was through Portuguese, Dutch & Chinese traders and other missionaries in this city. 

Evolution of Tempura & Japanese Fried Foods

In the year 1543, an old Chinese ship with three Portuguese sailors on board was going towards Macau, but was swept off course & it ended up on the Japanese island named Tanegashima. 


Antonio da Mota, & Antonio Peixoto – one of the the first European men to ever step on Japanese region -- were deemed as ‘southern barbarians’ by the local people because of the certain direction from which all these people came & their ‘unusual’, non-Japanese features. 

The Japanese people were in the middle of a civil war & eventually they started trading with the Portuguese, in general, for ammunition. And thus it was the beginning of a Portuguese trading post in the Japan region, starting with firearms & then other items like soap, wool & even recipes. 

The Portuguese controlled Japan until 1639, when they’re banished due to the ruling shogun Iemitsu strongly believed Christianity was a severe threat to Japanese society. As Portuguese ships sailed away for the last time, the Portuguese people left an indelible symbol on the island: a battered & fried green bean recipe termed as peixinhos da horta. 

Today, in Japanese language, it’s known as tempura and has been a staple of the entire region’s cuisine ever since. 

The Arrival Of Main Food Dishes Like Tempura Don, Tempura Soba

Tempura (fried dishes) specialty shops began to appear from the early Meiji Era. Many of the food cuisines were prepared in the Ginza, Asakusa, & Nihonbashi areas. 

tempura soba dish

In the middle of the majestic Meiji Era, a food style emerged named ozashiki tempura, in which the cook prepares the tempura in front of all the diners in a separate private room, and then serves the guests the freshest tempura. 

Some new main food dishes were also introduced like Tendon (tempura with a bowl of rice) & Tempura Soba (either called hot soba topped with tempura or also served as cold soba with tempura). 

Today, tempura is a well-known dish both among the Japanese people & foreigners who visit Japan. It’s a must-try dish at home.

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