Where Did Tempura Come From?

There are a lot of good ways to enjoy tempura at I Love Sushi’s Seattle restaurant. Try some tempura sushi, some tempura udon, or just a classic deep-fried dish of vegetables, shrimp, lobster, salmon, or one of many other delicious varieties. It’s no mystery why everyone loves this long-time Japanese favorite, but it may be more of a mystery as to where the tempura first came from.

People with some familiarity with the Japanese language may have noticed that there is something slightly askew about the word “tempura”. This is a word that cannot be written properly in the Japanese alphabets, as every syllable in Japanese ends with either a vowel or an “N” sound. Some people assume that this represents a mistake in Romanization, but the truth is that “tempura” is not a Japanese word.

Tempura is actually an adapted version of a Portuguese dish known as peixinhos da horta. The recipe was introduced to Japan in the sixteenth century, when missionaries from Portugal and Spain were arriving in the country. Though the facts are obscured in history, it is thought that the word “tempura” comes from the Portuguese word “tempero”, which translates to “condiment” or “seasoning”.