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What Is Vegetable Tempura?

Use crisp vegetables when making vegetable tempura.
Ice cubes are used to make batter for vegetable tempura.
Many restaurants serve salt and citrus juice as condiments for tempura.
Plate of cooked soba noodles, which are often served with tempura.
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  • Written By: Jack Magnus
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2014
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Vegetable tempura is a Japanese dish featuring deep-fried vegetables. Thin slices of fresh vegetables are dipped in batter and quickly fried in small batches. Tempura also is commonly made with seafood, and a combination of vegetable and seafood tempura is a popular order in Japanese restaurants. A dipping sauce and white rice or noodles are usually served with this dish.

Almost any firm vegetable can be prepared as vegetable tempura. Zucchini, onion and sweet potato are popular choices. Small broccoli or cauliflower florets also are commonly used.

Batter is made with eggs, flour and ice water, or one can use a store-bought batter mix. One should not overly blend the batter, because it performs better when there are some lumps remaining. It is recommended that one add a few ice cubes to prepared batter to keep it chilled. Warm batter can become sticky and make vegetable tempura oily.

Tempura is served with a dipping sauce called tentsuyu. Tentsuyu is made of soup stock, rice wine and soy sauce. Some restaurants also serve salt and citrus juice as condiments for tempura. The salt is sometimes seasoned with green tea, curry powder or other spices.

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A wok, which is a dome-shaped Japanese pot used for stir-frying, is recommended for cooking tempura. One also can use a heavy pot with deep walls. Oil is heated in the pot to a temperature that will quickly cook the vegetables while sealing in the juices. Cooking the vegetables in small batches helps keep the temperature consistent.

Seafood tempura is often served with vegetable tempura. Crab, scallops and shrimp are popular items for tempura, as are small pieces of whitefish or cod. When cooking both vegetable and seafood tempura, it is preferable to cook them separately, because the cooking times may vary.

Tempura was introduced to Japan in the 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who prepared batter-dipped and fried fish for their meals. Street vendors popularized the dish by selling freshly caught and fried fish from their stands. Tenya shops in Japan now serve tempura as inexpensive fast food. These shops provide dining areas where patrons stand while eating.

When rice is served with tempura, it is called ten-don. The tempura is placed on top of a pile of rice and tentsuyu sauce is poured over the dish. Vegetable and seafood tempura also is served with udon noodles made of whole wheat or soba noodles made of buckwheat. Kakiegedon is an intertwined mix of vegetable and seafood tempura that is shaped into a round structure and served on rice.

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