National Tempura Day
Today celebrates tempura, which are lightly battered and deep fried seafood and vegetables. Portuguese missionaries and merchants centered around Nagasaki, Japan, used flour and eggs as a batter to create what the Japanese would adopt as tempura in the late sixteenth century. It had been eaten during Ember days, which in Latin is "Quatuor Tempora," which gave the food its name. Original Japanese tempura was thick and resembled fritters, and was eaten without a dipping sauce. By the early seventeenth century, tempura caught on in the Tokyo Bay area, where "Yatai" food carts were popular. It was here that tempura changed to become closer to what we would now identify it as. To preserve the taste of fresh seafood, only water, flour, and eggs were used in the batter, and it gained a crispy texture. The tempura was dipped in a sauce mixed with grated daikon. This modern tempura first appeared in a cookbook in 1671.
Shrimp tempura is probably the most popular today, and in America, various meats such as chicken, and cheese such as mozzarella, are popular tempura ingredients. The batter is light and made of soft wheat flour and cold water that is usually mixed for a few minutes with chopsticks. The vegetables and seafood are dipped in the batter, and then fried in oil for a very short amount of time. Vegetable or canola oils are the norm, but sesame oil was traditionally used. Tempura may be eaten with a dipping sauce, tentsuyu being the most common. They also can be salted and eaten without sauce, or eaten with grated daikon. Tempura is often used to make other dishes. For example, it may be eaten with soba noodles, or be part of "donburi," which consists of shrimp and vegetable tempura over steamed rice. "Kakiage" is a type of tempura made with mixed vegetable strips, and sometimes shrimp or squid. It is made into a small round fritter.