It's simple, it's classy and it's loved all over the world – tempura sure does have a special place in our hearts. People have been deep-frying food for absolutely ages, but it takes the touch of the Japanese to rustle up some proper fried goodies – they make the delicate, crispy tempura that we all know and love. Popping up in restaurants across the globe, you'll find tempura on any Asian establishment worth its noodles – such as the street food style offerings at Japanese specialists Toko.
Feudal street food
While not quite lost in the mists of time, the legend of tempura begins with 16th century Portuguese missionaries. These guys introduced their method of battering and deep-frying food to the good people of Nagasaki.
And it wasn't long before the street food vendors around Tokyo Bay were dishing out tempura, cooked up on their mobile wooden carts. These guys ditched the heavier Portuguese batter for a much lighter version – they found out that the key was to complement – and not overpower – the delicate seafood that'd been freshly hauled from the teeming waters.
The art of tempura
Traditionally, it's veggies and seafood that are given the tempura treatment. But nowadays, fruit, noodles and even ice-cream can also take a dip in the specialist batter. You'll often find the ingredient cooked whole – as Japanese cuisine is all about letting super fresh, natural flavours have the spotlight. From shrimp, scallops and white fish to sweet potatoes, corn and mushrooms, tempura is a batter that knows few bounds.
And it's the batter that's the star of the show here. It's made up of a relatively simple formula of wheat flour, eggs and iced water – sometimes sparkling water is used for extra lightness. And it's this coolness that gives our tempura its trademark lightness.
Time to savour
Often served up with rice or crowning a dish of steamed soba noodles, tempura's crackle is a cosy bedfellow to comfort food. But, true to its origins, tempura is street food snacking at its best. Served up bite sized or on sticks, the marriage of that unmistakable crunch paired with succulent, flavour-packed ingredients, with a dip for dunking, is a real treat.
The guys at Toko understand our love of laid-back snacking on Japanese and other pan-Asian delights with their street food inspired menu offering up all sorts of goodies. From delectable dim sum and spring rolls to sushi and of course tempura, Toko's skilful take on Asian favourites makes it a top choice in town. We love their Kataifi Prawns with shredded phyllo pastry and a refreshing mango salsa, but the 5 spice Crispy Squid also gets our vote. Vegetarians can get in on the tempura fun here too, with their Sweet Corn Tempura plated up with a spicy mayo.