Contrary to popular belief, tempura didn’t originate in Japan. Tempura is a frying technique using a batter mixture consisting of flour, egg and liquid (milk, beer or water). This style of frying was introduced in Japan by Spanish and Portuguese Catholic missionaries and traders during the late 1500s, according to Portuguese online magazine Catavino.
The word Tempura came from the Latin word Tempora, which refers to “The Ember Days” when Catholics refrain from eating meat. It was accounted that tempura became the favorite dish of the first shogun of the Tokugawa/Edo era. Shogun was the commander-in-chief of Japan’s military government, at that time.
The Japanese adopted the technique of tempura or batter frying overtime and applied their own modifications especially in the type of liquid to use, which was either cold water or sparkling water to keep the batter very light. The modern day Japanese tempura style frying if it’s done right should be light brown not golden brown in color; crispy and crunchy with very little residual oil. In other words, it should not be greasy.
Unlike the basic batter mixture of flour, egg and milk (or beer), the light tempura batter is a mixture of flour and egg with cold water (soda or carbonated water or sometimes even Vodka). The batter is mixed in small batches leaving some lumps of flour in the mixture.
One common technique used in tempura frying is keeping the batter mixture cold by adding ice cubes in the mixture or by placing the bowl of mixture in a bigger bowl full of of ice cubes. It is also often advised not to overmix or over stir the batter to prevent the activation of the gluten. When the flour is stirred well and dissolved in the batter (just like how the typical beer batter frying is done) this causes the batter to become soft and dough-like when fried.
For this recipe, I used Tilapia fillets fully thawed and cut into sticks. I made sure everything I needed was ready in an assembly line (fish sticks -> bowl of flour -> cold batter mixture) before the frying starts because it will only take about 2 minutes to fry a tempura.
Making your own tempura at home seems very intimidating at first but once you try it, it’s really easy. So go ahead, serve an authentic Japanese fish tempura in the comfort of your dining table.
Thank you for reading and happy cooking ❤
Yield: 2-3 Servings
* Tilapia fillet – 4 pcs.
* Seasoning: lemon pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper
* Egg – 1 pc. beaten
* Cold water – ½ cup
* Flour – as needed
* Ice cubes – as needed
* Cooking oil – 2-3 cups
* Vegetables – sliced thinly (potato, carrots, sweet potato) – optional
1. Make sure the tilapia sticks are fully thawed, pat dry with paper towel and sliced into sticks.
2. Heat the cooking oil in a deep pan or frying pan.
3. Season tilapia sticks with lemon pepper, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper generously.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and cold water together.
5. Add ½ cup of flour into the bowl. Stir very lightly, do not try to dissolve flour in the mixture, leave some of the flour lumps.
6. Add 4-5 ice cubes.
7. Put 1 cup of flour in a separate bowl. Drench each of the tilapia sticks in flour.
8. Then dip the sticks in the batter mixture and fry in hot oil for 2-3 minutes of until light brown.
9. Do the same with the vegetables.
10. For dipping sauce, catsup and/or tartar sauce are best match.