Apr 30, 2017

Love me Tendon

Think tendon is just about fried Japanese food? Think again.

Tempura is one of the most popular Japanese foods around the world, but did you know it actually has Portuguese origins? In the late 16th century, Portuguese missionaries and merchants residing in Nagasaki used a combination of flour and eggs to use as a batter to make fritters. In those days, the batter used was thick and stodgy, and was eaten without a dipping sauce.

In later years, this recipe was tweaked and refined by food stalls in the Tokyo Bay area. The batter was mixed minimally in cold water to avoid the sticky, dough-like texture, maintaining a crispy outer shell that protects the delicate taste of seafood. This recipe continues even today, but has evolved to be served as a tendon – a rice bowl topped with tempura and a sweet shoyu-based sauce known as tare.

Tendon is usually prepared using fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables, but there are some restaurants that serve tendon with tempura chicken. For example, tempura chicken originates from Oita Prefecture, on the eastern coast of Kyushu in Japan, but can also be found at popular tendon restaurant, Tendon Ginza Itsuki in Singapore.

In fact, the popularity of tendon in Singapore is really taking off, with more tendon speciality restaurants joining the fray. We speak to three chefs who share with us more about the secret to a great tendon.


  (Text Vanessa Tai Photography Charles Chua/A Thousand Words

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