January 7, 2012

National Tempura Day

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” – James Beard

It's National Tempura Day!

Tempura was introduced to Japan in the mid-sixteenth century by Portuguese Jesuits who abstained from meat on occasion for religious reasons.

Now, while I don't actually remember the first time I tried tempura, I do know that every single time I've ever eaten it I've burned my mouth.

They're deceiving little buggers, aren't they? First off: they're an oxymoron of epic proportions. It's FRIED VEGGIES. I'm one of those people who rationalizes that the good (all those vitamin packed veggies) side and the bad (all that deep-fried glory) side cancel each other out, so its totally not an unhealthy food by any stretch of the imagination (see that girl up yonder? That's the face of denial). I mean, out comes this plate of golden colored delicacies. And they're so cute, because they're in the shape of the veggie they contain deep within the walls of their battered goodness. Oh, look! That tree shaped thing? That's a broccoli! And that orange disc? That's a carrot! The circular ring is just an onion, whoopty-doo (sorry Tempura Onion, but your basically just an onion ring - that makes you the most pedestrian thing on my plate. And I'm a Thai restaurant! If I wanted you, I would go to any bar or fast food chain joint in the world!).

And, because patience is a virtue I don't have when it comes to eating, I dive right in - greedily grabbing Mr. Tempura Broccoli who's lookin' oh-so-fine - and shove the whole thing in my mouth. It instantly breaks open, oozing it's 4,000 degree juice all over the place, burning multiple layers of skin and sensation from my lips, tongue, cheeks, and the roof of my mouth.

It happens every time.

Today was no exception.

My hope for you today is that you get to enjoy your tempura. No really: enjoy it. Taste the flavors and feel the textures of it. Don't just shovel it into your face while its still hot, thus preventing you from really being able to enjoy it.

Happy National Tempura Day!