Anyone who likes Japanese food knows that it is a cuisine with countless delicious dishes. Sushi and sashimi are both favorites, but one of the best, most delectable items on any Japanese menu is tempura. But if you’ve never had tempura, you may be wondering what it tastes like.
What does Tempura taste like? Tempura usually tastes like a lightly fried version of whatever ingredient is used as a base for it. Shrimp and prawns tend to be the most popular options, but you’ll also find recipes made from mushrooms, eggplant, and squash, and those recipes taste like each of those, respectively.
In this blog, we’ll go over the various types of tempura as well as discuss some ways to get the most out of the dish.
What Does Tempura Taste Like?
If you’re asking, “What does tempura taste like?”, it’s safe to assume you haven’t had much experience with it. Here are seven different kinds of tempura.
Shrimp, Prawn or Squid Tempura
Shrimp or prawn tempura is some of the most commonly found in Japanese restaurants, particularly when served as appetizers. Known as “ebi” in its native land, the shrimp is cooked in such a fashion that it remains straight rather than curled up.
Squid is an equally popular ingredient, tasting similar enough that they’re often mixed together.
Many vegetables are often used in tempura, including shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, green beans, sweet potato, pumpkin, asparagus and renkon (a lotus fruit).
Kakiage is onion, carrot, small shrimp and burdock blended together until they’re shaped like a disc. It’s not the easiest dish to find outside of Japan, however it’s surprisingly easy to make yourself.
You can’t use any fish for tempura, however white fish is perfect for the batter. Both flavors are bland enough to perfectly compliment the sauce.
Chikuwa makes for a great snack. It’s made of fish, shaped like a tube and contains a substance that looks like gelatin. It’s a particularly salty treat that’s often used as broth for other meals.
The West doesn’t do enough with our eggs. We seem content to boil, fry or poach them. In Japan, you can get an egg with a crispy exterior and a runny interior. Egg is a popular tempura ingredient in restaurants, but it takes real skill to prepare one at home.
Chicken tempura, also known as toriten, is extremely popular in southern Japan. It’s different from karaage, the other deep-fried chicken of the region that is equally well-liked, in that it’s battered before being fried. Karaage is just covered in flour.
Obviously, the nutritional facts for each change depending on what kind of ingredient you’re cooking. Now that you know some of the most popular types of tempura, to understand what they taste like, you first have to pair them with a sauce.
What Sauce Goes Best With Tempura?
Japanese foods are often paired with sauces and condiments such as wasabi or soy sauce. There are other options beyond sauce. Here are some popular ways to have tempura.
Basic sauce for tempura is known as tsuyu, a very thin, fish-based sauce. People have described its taste as very much like soy sauce (as it has soy sauce in it), only much sweeter.
Dipping tempura in salt is one alternative, however be careful not to use too much. You don’t want to overwhelm the subtle flavors with excessive saltiness.
It’s also possible to have tempura served on a bed of rice, also known as donburi-style.
Often, noodles are preferred over rice. Tempura goes well with both udon and soba. People enjoy the contrast of crispy tempura with thin, slippery noodles.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which is particularly great for bringing out the light, subtle flavors in tempura.
Some people choose to have tempura plain, which can seem a little bland at first. But eating tempura without any sauces, for those with a good food palate, can really make one appreciate the subtle tastes in the batter.
This is probably the most interesting way to prepare tempura. It is first served on a bowl of rice, at which time warm green tea is poured over the tempura until it is about half-submerged. Although this isn’t a common way to try it, it comes highly recommended by tempura enthusiasts.
There are numerous sauces available that can really bring out the flavor of tempura as well as perfectly complement its subtlety. Ultimately, how you choose to eat it is entirely up to you.