Where Did Tempura Come From?

You might know tempura as a classic Japanese preparation of meats and vegetables, battered and deep-fried into that distinctly delectable dish you can find at all of your favorite restaurants. At our Issaquah Japanese Restaurant, you can enjoy this fried classic in many forms, including our shrimp tempura, vegetable tempura, salmon tempura, and ice cream tempura. But what is the story behind tempura, exactly? The answer may surprise you.

If you’re familiar with the Japanese language, you may have noticed that there’s something unusual about tempura. After all, the word cannot be written properly with Japanese characters. This is because “tempura” is not a native Japanese word.

Tempura was actually introduced to Japan at some point in the sixteenth century, when missionaries from Portugal and Spain arrived in the country. Though the specific facts are lost to history, it is thought that the name was derived from the Portuguese word “tempero”, which translates to “condiment”. You can actually still find a dish similar to the Japanese tempura in Portugal, called peixinhos da horta.