When you think Tempura, chances are you think Japanese. Tempura is a batter used to coat seafoods, usually shrimp, or vegetables that are then deep fried. What is interesting about Tempura is that its origins are not Japanese.
While the tale of how Tempura came to be a Japanese stable vary, one thing is certain – Tempura was introduced by the Portuguese who settled in Japan. One tale is of sailors aboard a Chinese ship that ran off course and landed on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. They settled on the island, established a trade business and introduced Portuguese cooking to Japan. The other is that Tempura was prepared by Portuguese missionaries. Tempura comes from the Latin ad tempora cuaresme, which means “in the time of Lent”. The Japanese mistook this as the dish’s name and not a way of preparing the foods permitted during Lent – seafoods and vegetables. The Japanese called the dish itself Tempura.
It did not take long for Tempura to become a popular street food in Japan. Interestingly enough, Tempura is no longer part of the typical Portuguese cuisine.
True Tempura takes special attention to detail. While recipes abound, the real key is twofold. First is the preparation. A Tempura Flour should be used and the best oils for frying are Brown Rice Oils. There are also knife skills involved, as the vegetables and shrimp should be cut a certain way. Skills I have not mastered. While I would love to, we don’t eat Tempura that often. It is much easier to buy perfectly prepared Tempura Shrimp in the frozen food section of Costco. These shrimp come in individually wrapped trays of five shrimp each and can be baked in the oven in no time. Hubby loves them.
The second key is a good Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce. Now that’s something worth learning. The sauce is great for Lumpias, too. Lumpia is a Filipino Spring Roll or Egg Roll of sorts. While you can find them in the frozen section of most Asian Markets, we make our own. It’s a full day of cooking and wrapping, but so worthwhile. Growing up making Lumpia was an occasion to have a party. Friends and family would gather, make a few hundred and have fun together doing it. My family’s Lumpia Recipe is more American than Filipino, heavy on the meats with some vegetables and a pass on the cabbage.
So I’ve told you how to cheat (using frozen foods). And I suppose you could use a bottled Chili Sauce, but why when the real deal is so easy to make? Here’s to a little cheat on National Tempura Day. Enjoy!
Tempura Shrimp and Lumpia with Sweet Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons Water
2 tablespoons Cornstarch
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Serrano Pepper, minced
1 cup Water
2/3 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Rice Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt
Prepare the slurry for the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons water and cornstarch. Set it aside.
Peel and finely mince the garlic cloves, set aside. Stem pepper, split open, removing some of the seeds. Finely mince the pepper, set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the a cup of water with the garlic, jalapeno, sugar, rice vinegar, and salt. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer it for five minutes.
Stir the cornstarch slurry mixture one final time. Whisk the slurry into the saucepan. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens, whisking constantly.
Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to cool. Place sauce in the refrigerator to continue to chill until ready to serve.
Tempura Shrimp and Lumpia
15 Frozen Tempura Shrimp
15 Frozen Lumpia
Oil for Frying
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a wire baking rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
Heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees.
Once the oil is hot, arrange the frozen shrimp on the wire rack. This will help to circulate the hot air in the oven for crisp tempura shrimp. Place in the oven to bake for 7 minutes. Remove from oven, turn and continue to bake another 7 to 8 minutes or until crisp and heated through.
While the shrimp is baking, fry the lumpia until golden and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes per side. Drain lumpia on paper towels before serving.
To serve, arrange shrimp and lumpias together on a large plate. Ladle dipping sauce into a small bowl and serve.