What Is Tempura Shrimp?

M.C. Huguelet

Tempura shrimp is a savory dish consisting of batter-dipped shrimp which have been fried in oil until their coating becomes crisp and golden. The batter used to make tempura shrimp traditionally consists of only two or three ingredients, and is mixed as little as possible to create a crisp coating. Tempura shrimp is often eaten alone, although it may also be added to soups or served over noodles. While the tempura cooking technique is strongly associated with Japanese cuisine, it is widely believed that it was actually introduced to the Japanese by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries.

Plate of cooked soba noodles, which are often served with tempura.
Plate of cooked soba noodles, which are often served with tempura.

One of the defining characteristics of tempura shrimp is its simplicity. Traditionally, tempura batter consists of just two or three ingredients: flour, cold water, and, in some cases, eggs. While some modern cooks opt to modify this recipe through the addition of seasonings and leavening agents like baking powder, traditionalists argue that simple batters make superior tempura. Whatever their ingredient preferences, most cooks adhere to the principle that tempura batter should be mixed as lightly as possible. This prevents the mixture from becoming overly glutinous, which would result in a coating that is heavy rather than light and crispy.


After the batter has been made, preparing tempura shrimp is a fairly simple process. A pan of cooking oil is heated until the oil reaches a temperature of approximately 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius). Then, raw shrimp which have been washed, deveined, dried, and floured are dipped in the batter and carefully dropped into the hot oil. The shrimp are fried until the batter becomes golden and crisp.

Often, tempura shrimp is served as an independent dish, accompanied by a dipping sauce. It is sometimes also incorporated into soups. Shrimp prepared in this way may also be served over thick buckwheat noodles called soba.

The tempura cooking technique is strongly associated with Japanese cuisine, and tempura seafood and vegetable dishes are commonly found in Japanese restaurants around the world. It is widely believed, however, that the concept of deep-frying foods was actually introduced to the Japanese by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. While the notion of deep-frying vegetables and seafood may have come from abroad, though, the Japanese adapted the technique to fit the dominant tastes as well as the available foods of their country. By the 18th century, dishes like tempura shrimp had become a popular feature of Japanese cooking.

A tempura shrimp sushi roll.
A tempura shrimp sushi roll.

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Discussion Comments


@heavanet- Shrimp tempura goes with so many different kinds of dipping sauces, and the best one depends on the taste preferences of the people who will be eating it.

Sweet and sour sauce is a traditional Chinese condiment that tastes great on shrimp tempura. For people who enjoy a little heat on their food, hot mustard makes a nice dip for this shrimp recipe. Those who like even more warmth may like to dip their shrimp tempura in wasabi sauce, though its hot flavor is not for everyone.

Some people prefer a more American flavor for dipping shrimp tempura. For them, ranch, blue cheese, or dill dressings make perfect dips. Some people may even prefer traditional mayonnaise, ketchup, tarter sauce, or ketchup for dipping their shrimp tempura.


@heavanet- I like to eat shrimp tempura with ginger dipping sauce. This sweet sauce has just enough spiciness to compliment the mild flavor of the shrimp tempura perfectly.


Does anyone have some good recommendations for the best dipping sauce for shrimp tempura? I usually serve it with soy sauce, but I am making it for guests that prefer food with less sodium content.

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