The oil and its temperature is the next point. The expert tempura chef can test its temperature by feeling the pressure of the oil on a wooden chopstick plunged to the bottom of the boiling vat. If the oil is too hot, the food will not be cooked evenly, while if it is too cool, it will soak into the batter and make the "cloak" greasy. The tempura itself ranges from the snowy white Osaka-style tempura fried in an oil mixture light on sesame seed oil, to the bright yellow-gold of kimpura, fried with batter heavy with eggyolks.
The tempura should be dipped in the accompanying four-inch round saucer of tempura dressing (tentsuyu) which is a mixture of fish-based soup stock, sweet sake (mirin) and soy sauce. Be sure to mix in the grated radish and ginger found in a separate dish, which will give the sauce the proper tang. Instead of tentsuyu sauce, some first-class restaurants give their customers freshly ground toasted sea salt, or simply a lemon wedge.
One should note that although covered in batter, each morsel has been carefully sliced and diced to ensure its utmost flavorfulness. Eggplants are often arranged into a fan-shape, since this symbolizes the auspicious sign to the Japanese of "spreading" or "growing".
The Standard FareAt a Tempura restaurant in Japan, customers often order à la carte, item by item, to get what is in season or posted on the wallanything from leeks to lotus roots.
Yet the standard order, or teishoku at a tempura restaurant generally consists of seaweed salad or sansai (mountain vegetables) salad appetizer, followed by the tempura of prawn, carrot, whole smelt, mushroom, eggplant, sea eel and a fragrant shiso leaf battered on one side. These items are fried up at a comfortable pace for eating hot, and served along with a bowl of rice and miso soup. Often a dish of raw cuttlefish or tuna, (lightly brazed as tataki) is served along with the tempura.
Course meals are ranked according to the number of morsels served, usually between five to eleven, and vary in price accordingly. For the sake of maintaining one's appetite, the tempura is served from the smallest to largest items.
Tempura meals often end with kaki-age, a mixture of shrimp and scallop, or else carrots and burdock root prepared as tempura.
Although course meals are usually graded by poetic names, such as the triplet of Pine (matsu), Bamboo (take) and Plum (ume), or the auspicious pair of Crane (tsuru) and Turtle (kame), the nami (regular), jo (choice) and tokujo (special) rankings of teishoku can be understood anywhere.