The Crispy, Crunchy Japanese Art of Tempura
Thanks to Japanese cuisine’s meticulous preparation and fabulous, eye-catching presentation—think of the kaleidoscope of fish and vegetables inside every slice of a sushi roll—Las Vegas Japanese restaurants fit right in with the city’s ostentatious yet chic ethos. For a dish with a little decadence, turn to tempura batter, which gives a crispy, uniquely flaky finish to plates of veggies and seafood.
What is tempura made out of?
A batter that puffs up into an airy, golden crunch in the deep fryer, tempura is simply a mixture of water, flour, and sometimes egg. Naturally, that short ingredient list is what forces chefs to become so compulsive about getting it right. Even before you decide whether you’ll use it to coat vegetables, shrimp, soft-shell crab, or fish, there are many decisions to make.
Rice flour can provide a delicate crispiness; wheat flour has a stronger flavor but must be carefully mixed to keep it from becoming too dense and glutinous. Using ice-cold water also prevents gluten strings from forming, and some chefs even substitute sparkling water—its bubbles add extra air to the batter.
When was it invented?
Tempura is a mainstay of many Japanese restaurants, but its roots aren’t as ancient as those of sushi or teriyaki. Animal fats were rare in early Japan, and vegetable oils were used primarily for fuel, so frying took a while to catch on. Many theorize that it was finally introduced in the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese traders and missionaries, after which a throng of tempura-fried fish vendors popped up in the streets where Tokyo now stands.
Where can you find tempura?
Tempura-battered shrimp is tucked within rolls at Mizuya inside Mandalay Bay, while flakes of crispy tempura batter add crunch to rolls at Rice & Company inside the Luxor Las Vegas. At Yellowtail inside the Bellagio, you can try tempura-fried king crab with ponzu sauce or an assortment of crunchy-coated vegetables.