Japanese cuisine has garnered worldwide acclaim for its authenticity, delicate flavour and diligent preparation. In addition to its most famous specialty, sushi, Japanese food aficionados are familiar with tempura, a dish prepared battered vegetables or seafood.
But despite its popularity, not everyone knows the origin of this delicacy.
In the mid-sixteenth century, the first missionary Catholics arrived in Japan from Spain and Portugal. In addition to the Faith, they brought some customs unknown to the Japanese. One of these was the observance of the Cuatro Témporas [Spanish for Ember days], which eventually gave rise to tempura, and its name.
At that time, the Liturgical Year consecrated three days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) to the sanctification of the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year. As Catholics could not eat meat on these days, the Portuguese missionaries in Japan taught the neophytes how to prepare a vegetable, fish, or shrimp-based dish, coated in a batter of eggs and flour, and deep-fried. The new dish was so pleasing to the newly converted that they eventually spread it throughout the archipelago. ″
Extracted from Heralds of the Gospel Magazine