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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Tempura the name given in Japan to fish or vegetable fried in a light batter, in pieces of moderate size. This is the best known of three forms of deep-frying in Japan, which collectively provide the category of agemono, deep-fried dishes; see japanese culinary terms.

The same sort of thing as tempura is prepared in many other places, but the manner in which it is done by the Japanese has given their version great renown. The history of tempura goes back about 400 years, to the time when Portuguese missionaries arrived in Japan. The Portuguese word tempuras means Ember Days, when meat was not eaten. It has been plausibly suggested that on these days the missionaries cooked fish and vegetables in the manner most palatable to them, by frying in batter, and that the Japanese adopted the technique and the name from them.