Coming from a country whose dishes are really unique and usually mysterious to western audiences, Tempura is a surprisingly western style dish for Japanese food, though not with out its unique charms. Tempura is simply any of a number of seafoods – fish, shellfish, and cephalopods – and vegetables that have been doused in tempura batter and deep fried. Tempura batter itself is a simple affair, comprised mostly of cold water and soft wheat flower.

Occasionally starch, eggs, baking soda or powder, oils, or spices will also be added to alter the texture, consistency, and taste of the batter. It is then usually whisked for a short period of time, perhaps only a few seconds – just enough to mix the ingredients – with a small instrument, typically chop sticks. Contrary to other, typically a lot more viscous batters used in deep frying, tempura batter is deliberately allowed to keep a lumpy consistency. Between this and the consistently cold temperature of the batter, the result is that tempura batter is usually fluffier.

In any other case, too high a temperature or too vigorous whisking will release gluten from the wheat flour which will give the batter a tougher, doughier consistency that’s undesirable. Special flour is also available for the making of tempura batter that won’t release gluten under these circumstances, essentially making the batter failure proof.

Right after tempura batter has been prepared, small, thin strips of vegetables and seafoods are dipped in the matter and fried for a short period. Typical seafoods are shrimp, scallops, squid, crab, and a number of fishes, which are also fried along with vegetables like peppers, potatoes, mushrooms, and various species of squashes.

Canola or vegetable oil are both sufficient for frying, but traditional preparation demands that the ingredients dipped in tempura batter be fried in either sesame seed or tea seed oil. This should impart a much more authentic flavor, and purists suggest that use of these oils results in a lighter, fluffier, crispier tempura batter after it’s been fried. Also in contrast to American cuisine, great care is taken not to overcook the battered ingredients, lest their flavor be polluted. Steps are also taken to assure that lumps of tempura batter don’t remain floating in the oil after ingredients have been fried.

This is to prevent the batter from becoming overfried in the oil and burning, leaving a bad taste in the oil that can in turn ruin ingredients yet to be fried. These lumps of tempura batter even have their own name, Tenkasu, and are themselves utilized as ingredients or as toppings in other dishes. Tempura is normally eaten almost immediately after frying. There are a variety of sauces which are traditionally utilized, where pieces are dipped using chop sticks. Other additives like sea salt and powdered green tea leaves are also common.