In Fukuoka, I learned to forget everything I had ever learned about Tenpura.
I got to know a tenpura chef there named, Hattai. Through he his work I began to see tenpura as an extremely simple concept based in an imperfectly complex craft. His tenpura was a progression of perfect pieces that forced me to reevaluate my respect for tenpura as a vital component of Japanese cuisine. His work is full of detail and nuance, but the most obvious difference when serving tenpura of this quality is the absence of tentsuyu, which is a dipping sauce made from a specific ratio of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin with grated ginger and daikon. Each perfect piece of tenpura was served seconds out of the fryer with nothing more than sea salt and a kabosu(japanese citrus)wedge. The guest would squeeze the citrus into their sauce dish and tilt it to create a pool. The tenpura was dipped from the juice to the salt and eaten. The flavor is elegant and does nothing more than illuminate the strong character of each bite. One could focus on the chef’s timing of the pieces, the freshness and provenance of his ingredients, the temperature and composition of his oil, the chemistry of his batter, but I found the use of salt and citrus as condiments to be a major shift from the expectations held by our guests back home. Serving tenpura with out the tentsuyu has not been an easy sell. I have been accused of forgetting the sauce when attempting to serve the tenpura only this way for the entire dining room. Now I occasionally include tenpura in our tasting menu and serve it in the best way we know how with seasonal infused Jacobsen’s Sea salt harvested here in Oregon. Recently I received a shipment of costata romanesco from Phantom Rabbits Farm and decided tenpura was the only way to go. We are serving it with Jacobsen’s sea salt infused with calendula petals and fresh sudachi.

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