A guide to the perfect tempura

Tempura was always something I’d remember as food I would eat as fast as possible in an underground store at the train station after work before rushing for the train home. Whilst far from refined or complicated, it was always well made, heart-warming and filling. It wasn’t until I tried to recreate the same tempura outside of Japan that I realized the complexity that was hiding behind such simple food.

The journey started with trying various tempura recipes from books and websites but realizing that these recipes didn’t even come close to the kind of tempura you’d get in Japan. For one, they didn’t stay crispy for a long time and went soggy quickly. Whilst some recipes did produce crispy tempura, the mouthfeel was hard and crunchy, not light and crispy yet melting inside your mouth.

A rare tempura pot made from gunmetal

Upon further research and study, we realized that because of the simplicity of it’s ingredients, the specificity of the ingredients mattered to an extremely high degree. From the temperature of the water and flour, all the way to the protein content of the flour. Processing wise, the flour you could obtain in Japan was nothing like the flour you could buy elsewhere. With so many variables at play, we realized that this would be the perfect avenue to shine our experimental curiosity towards.

This gave birth to this series of articles trying to create the ‘perfect’ tempura. Of course the notion of the perfect tempura is ludicrous, but to us it represents an ideal. The memory of the taste and texture of tempura after a long day of work in Japan will forever taste better when we reminiscence about it. Just like how a perfectionist is never satisfied, even if we do find a way to make tempura that does taste better than what we ate back then, we’ll still be chasing that unattainable perfection.

The science behind the perfect tempura

Tempura Niitome’s recipe and -60°C tempura batter

Gunmetal pots 砲金製 天ぷら鍋