Your Japanese Tempura is not really Japanese

Tempura is a popular Japanese dish, and you can find it just about anywhere. Most Japanese restaurants serve this well-loved dish- prawns and vegetables such as eggplant dipped in a thin batter and fried to golden, flaky perfection.

Most would be surprised to find out that it’s not really Japanese….. it’s Portugese.

(You heard that right. Oh, and salmon sushi isn’t Japanese either- you can read more about that here).

In 1543, three Portugese sailors landed in Japan by accident when their ship (a Chinese vessel headed to Macau) was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima.

Antonio da Mota, Francisco Zeimoto and Antonio Peixoto were the first Europeans to ever step on Japanese soil. Eventually, the Portugese started trading with the Japanese.

The Portugese were kicked out by the Japanese in 1639, because the ruling shogun Iemitsu believed Christianity was a threat to Japanese society. However, they did leave something behind- their cuisine.

They left behind a dish known as peixinhos da horta, which is a dish of green beans that are dipped in batter and deep-fried.

Peixinhos da horta. Photo: PhotoCuisine RM/Alamy Stock Photo

Of course, over 400 years, the Japanese have adapted the dish to their own tastes. However, we still have the Portugese to thank for our beloved tempura.

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