The fried goodies on your plate have a translucent skin and when you poke them with a fork, they reveal their firm and crisp hearts. The dramatic contrast of textures may seem puzzling to some but it is a telling commentary on the love for precision that characterises Japanese cuisine. Meet the tempura, believed to have been introduced into the Japanese culinary lexicon by Portuguese missionaries in the 1600s, that uses simple ingredients but is a testament to the gastronomic prowess of the Japanese. Chefs are known to dunk vegetables and seafood in a light-as-air batter before tossing them into bubbling oil with just a flick of the wrist. The crisp vegetables and seafood emerge from their oil shower with a golden halo and a formidable crunch. Here is a list of top restaurants you can drop by if you are craving to sample tempura that not only heightens the natural flavours of fresh seafood and vegetables but rids you of fried food guilt as well.
The restaurant redefines expectations of tempura lovers by presenting their batter fried dish in a new avatar. On their menu are the Dynamite Spider Rolls, where sweet and juicy soft shell crab tempura makes friends with cucumber and spicy dressing inside a sushi roll. Another highlight is the Crisp Calamari Tempura, that is served with tangy nanbanzuke sauce.
Tamra, Shangri-La's - Eros Hotel
Tempuras are the stars of the Japanese menu at Tamra and they are a master class in the skilful use of simple ingredients. Ice cubes are deftly added to the batter to keep it cool while vegetables and seafood are given just a light coating of batter to make the tempura translucent. The showstopper here is Ten-Zaru Soba, where chilled soba noodles are served with prawn and vegetable tempura.
On the Waterfront, The Lodhi
With its picturesque setting and a multi-cuisine menu, On the Waterfront offers the discerning diner a lot to choose from. It scores well in the tempura section too and lists dishes that pay homage to simplicity. There is the Soft Shell Crab/Vegetable Tempura with Dashi, but new iterations of the tempura are also available. For instance, there is the Crispy Soft Shell Crab Tempura Sushi Roll and the Vegetable Tempura Sushi Roll served with Tonkatsu Sauce. However, the must-have here is the Ebi or Prawn Tempura Sushi Roll that is unlike any prawn dish you have ever savoured.
A dining hotspot that draws in the droves with its fun Asian menu, Yum Yum Cha presents the tempura and sushi in a lip-smacking union. Innovation is the watchword in their sushi rolls. Scoring high on inventiveness is the Rock&Roll Sushi Roll where rock shrimp tempura is both tucked inside the sushi and used as a topping as well. What is more, the topping is roasted with a blow torch for a different flavour. Sharing space with it is the Peking where the roast duck is fried using tempura batter and tucked inside a sushi roll with mango and mentaiko for company. Vegetarians are spoilt for choice too as the Enoki Tempura Sushi Roll ticks all the right flavour boxes. In this dish, Enoki Mushroom Tempura is juxtaposed with cucumber, mayonnaise and truffle oil inside the sushi.
One of the most arresting dishes at the Asian Brasserie in Lodhi Colony Market is the Soft Shell Crab Tempura. It is a spectacle when it comes to your table, nestled in a mini fryer. Picture spiky fritters in a rectangular dish. However, grab a bite and the similarity with fritters ends straight away. The savoury batter with marine notes is crisp to a fault and melts on your palate in shards of umami goodness. The interiors of the tempura reveal sweet soft shell crabs that are both fresh and succulent. When paired with seasoned soy and mayonnaise dipping sauces, the tempura hits the sweet spot post haste.
Susmita Saha is a Delhi-based Features Writer. She has worked as an Assistant Editor at India Today and The Telegraph and writes on arts and culture, films, travel, food, architecture, design and various other lifestyle subjects. She has seriously itchy feet and plans to tick the world off her bucket list, one burger at a time.