Part 2 of 5
Tempura is a simple type of traditional food where the ingredients are covered in a batter made from flour, egg, and cold water and then deep fried in oil, but different restaurants often offer unique versions with the original ideas of the chef reflected in every aspect of preparation. High class restaurants in particular are known for using fresh seasonal ingredients that are strictly selected.
The deep fried ingredients center around seafood and vegetables, and particularly popular are white fish like shrimp, squid, and "kisu" (sand borer fish) for seafood and sweet potato, pumpkin, and eggplant for vegetables. "Kakiage", where several different kinds of items are deep fried together, is popular. Original tempura where vegetables and fish are mixed together is also very fun to do.
The pleasure of tempura lies in its crispy texture and savory nature. Chefs spend a lot of time researching the effects of the kind of oil used, oil temperature, length of time deep fried, and quality of the flour and egg mixture.
Some restaurants offer zashiki (straw tatami mat lined rooms) and table seating, but try to sit at a counter if possible. The chef skillfully fries tempura orders and serves them piping hot. Some chefs will show still living shrimp before cooking it to display the freshness. Eat freshly fried tempura before it cools.
In general, tempura is dipped in a special tempura sauce based in a mix of dashi (broth) and soy sauce and eaten with grated daikon. Some items are eaten with salt only. Some restaurants will offer unique salt mixtures consisting of salt blended with something like curry powder, matcha (green tea powder), or ume (Japanese plums). And some places may recommend that you eat tempura with only the juice squeezed from a citrus fruit like sudachi.
~Stay tuned for Part 3!~