Commonly served with any number of different sauces, tempura is vegetables, meat, or seafood that have been battered and deep fried. Choosing the best sauce for tempura will largely be dependent upon what type of tempura you are serving and your own personal flavor preferences. Sauces can range from those that mimic traditional Japanese cuisine, to those similar to a hot sauce, all the way to those that go well with seafood, such a tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.
Traditional Japanese sauces for tempura are most often made by combining soy sauce with sake or rice vinegar and a bit of sugar. This type of sauce is served warm. A sauce of this type is often the best sauce for tempura as it goes well with vegetables, fish, and meats. For a cook, this can prove to be quite convenient when serving more than one tempura dish at a meal.
Mayonnaise-based sauces, such as tartar sauce, are popular offerings for tempura that is made from seafood. They can also be paired with a vegetable, such as broccoli or cauliflower, which can have a heavier taste when cooked in the tempura style. Another popular sauce of this type is green mayonnaise. This sauce employs fresh, ground parsley to give it its refreshing taste and bright color. Mayonnaise-based sauces, while admittedly not low calorie, offer a coolness that offsets the heat of a fresh-from-the-fryer tempura-cooked meat or vegetable.
For those who like a bit of spice in their life, a hot sauce can prove to be a great choice as a sauce for tempura. This type of sauce would be most often served with a meat rather than a vegetable, as it might prove to overpower the delicate flavor of a well-cooked vegetable. Hot sauces range in intensity and also in consistency. Some are very smooth and light, while others are thick and gooey. The choice simply comes down to a person's palate.
As opposed to some of the more savory types of sauce for tempura, coconut-flavored sauces are a nice accompaniment, as well. This type of sauce can be made from a base of coconut milk or simply have shredded coconut added to it. Some recipes will even call for a bit of sugar to be added to further sweeten the sauce. The effect is the same: a light, sweet, contrasting flavor that spotlights both the tempura-cooked food and the sauce at the same time.