Some Tempura Ground Rules To Follow

I have a surprising amount of friends with one-gallon deep-fryers installed in their kitchens, which is awesome. What's shocking is that these people are typically missing other staple appliances and implements — a blender, for instance. Or a spatula that hasn't been partially melted. Or a decent knife that I won't slice my hand off with. But enough grievances. People have deep-fryers — and I have both the will, and the way, to make tempura.

But first, some important tempura vocabulary to know:

  • Tenkasu: errant bits of fried tempura batter fished from the hot oil using a fine mesh strainer and used as a garnish for maki rolls or noodle soup.

  • Tentsuyu: a tempura dipping sauce made with mirin, soy sauce and dashi broth.

  • Tensoba: buckwheat noodle soup with tempura topping. Also frequently found atop udon.

And some facts about tempura:

  • Tempura batter must be kept extremely cold in order to form a thin, fluffy structure when fried.
  • Japan received tempura as a gift from the occupying Portuguese. That's their story and they're sticking to it.
  • Battering and deep-frying maki rolls is considered to be poor form.

Foods you should try to tempura:

  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Enoki mushrooms
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Okra
  • Eel

Of course, if all you manage to do with all this information is order vaguely recognizable broccoli, string beans and slices of something orange (it's either sweet potato or pumpkin) you still had a healthier deep-fried lunch than this guy.