Tempura is a Portuguese technique and dish that is more classically associated with Japanese cuisine. For Japan, origins of tempura vegetables and seafood began 400 years ago when the Portuguese brought oil to the island nation. Along with it they brought a brand-new cooking method, and the Portuguese word tempero, meaning “to season.”
The fourth episode of Eater’s series Omakase visits Tempura Matsui in New York City, where this method of frying is the menu’s cornerstone. Matsui is the only tempura-focused restaurant to earn a Michelin star in the United States, and its chef Kiyoshi Chikano has been perfecting the art of tempura frying for 27 years. For Chikano and Matsui, the key is in a blend of three oils — cottonseed, peanut, and sesame — along with a concentrated eye and ear for the perfectly transparent piece of tempura.