It can be tough to tell the difference between various dishes in Japanese cuisine, especially if you’ve only recently started cooking them. I’m often asked about the difference between two dishes that sound externally similar, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve put together this guide to the difference between shrimp rolls and shrimp tempura.
Shrimp tempura is shrimp that has been battered and deep fried according to the tempura method, and it can be eaten as is or used in other dishes. Shrimp rolls typically feature shrimp surrounded by rice and nori, and the method that is used to cook the shrimp isn’t always specified.
Keep in mind that there are many different types of shrimp rolls that you can prepare, and there are even shrimp tempura rolls, combining aspects of both cooking techniques. I’ll take a closer look at the differences between these two types of Japanese dishes over the course of this guide.
Shrimp rolls are essentially sushi rolls that incorporate shrimp as one of the main ingredients. Keep in mind that it isn’t exactly traditional to use shrimp in sushi rolls because of the difficulty of rolling everything together because of the shrimp’s distinctive shape.
A basic shrimp roll is a shrimp maki roll, which consists of boiled shrimp, cream cheese, chives, and cucumber. This is a relatively easy roll to prepare, and it’s a common choice among sushi chefs who are just getting started because it’s made of common ingredients that you don’t have to go out of your way to get.
Of course, this isn’t the only kind of shrimp roll that you can prepare. You can swap out the cream cheese for spicy bean paste if you’d like to add a bit of fire to your shrimp rolls. Here’s a basic recipe for a shrimp roll:
- Slice your cucumber and cream cheese into slivers that are about a quarter inch thick. Keep the cream cheese cold so that it retains its shape.
- Boil your sushi rice in two cups of water for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Take the rice off of the stovetop and add in rice vinegar.
- Place your rice on a baking sheet so that it can cool off evenly.
- Cook your shrimp on medium heat in four cups of water for between two and three minutes.
- Prepare a small bowl of cold water that you can use to wet your fingers while rolling the sushi.
- Place your nori wrappers with the smooth side facing down on a cutting board.
- Spread your rice over the nori evenly.
- Add shrimp, cream cheese, and chives on top of the rice.
- Wet your fingers and wet the edge of the nori that will be folded over the other one.
- Roll up your shrimp roll.
- Cut the roll into one-inch rounds.
Shrimp tempura is shrimp that has been battered and then fried. Even though shrimp tempura is the most common form of tempura, it isn’t the only one. Many other kinds of seafood or even vegetables can be used to make a traditional tempura.
One of the most distinctive parts of tempura is the light batter that it uses compared to other kinds of deep-fried foods. To make tempura batter, you mix together eggs, ice water, and flour (which is the reason why tempura isn’t gluten-free).
The batter is also mixed differently than other kinds of batters for deep-fried foods. Typically, tempura is only mixed a little bit using chopsticks to ensure that it stays relatively chunky. This chunkiness makes tempura a lot fluffier and more airy than other kinds of batters, and it also contributes to its lighter flavor.
Other ingredients are typically sliced into thin strips before preparation, but shrimp tempura typically consists of whole shrimp that have been immersed in the batter before being fried. Keep in mind that you don’t add additional seasonings or even salt to the tempura batter before frying the food.
Shrimp tempura is typically fried for a shorter time than comparable battered dishes. While other dishes may be fried until they’re golden brown, tempura is only fried until it’s off-white. However, it should be cooked long enough that it’s crunchy, and soggy tempura means that you undercooked it.
If you’d like to combine shrimp tempura with shrimp rolls, you can even prepare shrimp tempura rolls. Replace boiled shrimp with shrimp tempura in a sushi roll and you have yourself a shrimp tempura roll.