I am from Taiwan, where the local cuisine is predominantly influenced by our former coloniser Japan. So I grew up eating everything Tempura, fish, vegetable, meat, everything dipped in batter and deep fried the Japanese way, or is it?
On a recent trip to Lisbon, while savouring delicacy at a quaint local restaurant, I was surprised to discover that my favourite Japanese dish, Tempura, had originally come from Portugal. (Incidentally, here is another little historical trivia: In 1544, a group of Portuguese sailors first named Taiwan "Ilha Formosa", meaning Beautiful Island when they were passing by the island on their ship.)
The chef and owner of this restaurant explained to me that while most people in the world believe the tempura was invented by the Japanese, it is actually a misconception. This batter covered fried dish was originally introduced to Japan by early Portuguese missionaries in the 1500's and later popularised to the world by the Japanese!
The Portuguese tempura I tried at this restaurant is very similar to the Japanese tempura that I am used to eating, both in texture and in taste.The only major difference is in the dipping sauce. While the Japanese tempura sauce is called tentsuyu and is made with soup stock, soy sauce, sugar and grated daikon, the Portuguese dip is more like the traditional piri-piri sauce that’s made with olive oil, chili peppers, bay leaf and lemon.
Where ever this dish comes from, I am just happy that it was ever created because it is super delicious!!!