Cooking Japanese: tempura

In Tokyo and other major cities around Japan, home businesses are starting to crop up. One in particular involves locals opening their homes and kitchens for cooking lessons.These offer a great opportunity to learn more about the culture of Japan, support local and small businesses, and of course, provide a glimpse into the daily life of the country’s people.

As I would be traveling for the holiday back to the states in a few weeks, I thought it would be nice to recreate one of my favorite Japanese meals for my mom to try. With a little research I found a handful of options in many districts around my area.

Of all the classes available I chose Yuca’s Japanese Cooking because it had good reviews and at around $75 USD per class, the price was right. Also, after sending her a quick email, Yuka agreed to teach the cooking lesson I wanted to learn instead of what was on the schedule. (Note: Most of these small cooking classes will allow you to request a dish if you are the first to sign up for that particular day/time slot)
Yuca and other schools teach a variety of dishes including basic sushi, how-to bento, ramen and tempura.

I’ve recently become obsessed with tempura and I wanted to share that oishii-ness with my mum.

I met Yuka-san and two other students that signed up for the class I CHOSE(!!) outside the train station. Yuka starts the class with a tour of the adjacent grocery store. We picked up a few of the ingredients including fresh produce, fresh salmon and shrimp to be tempura’d.

Japanese grocery shopping
Sensei picks out shrimp for the tempura.

After our shopping trip, we headed to Yuka’s mansion in a high rise a short cab ride away. Her kitchen was a typical Japanese one with a combo-oven-microwave unit and small appliances in a tight space. The three of us in the class took turns chopping, slicing, mixing and breading the ingredients.

Japanese cooking lesson
Slicing veggies with my classmate from Norway.

In the class we learned how to make misoshiru (miso soup), rice in a ricecooker, tendon dipping sauce, fried salmon in vinegar sauce, mochi balls for dessert and the tempura (or tendon) of course!

Japanese Ten Don
From top left, clockwise: Misoshiru, tendon dipping liquid, rice, mochi, ten don(tempura).

After everything was cooked and ready, we sat to eat our delicious lunch and also Yuka clued us in on a few tips in Japanese eating manners and table setting. One thing I didn’t realize was that the rice goes up on the upper left hand and the chopsticks across nearest the diner.


Japanese cooking lesson
Table set and ready to try our creations. Itadakimasu!

The class price also includes simple recipes of all the dishes made so you can run home and master a fraction of the art of Japanese cooking.
Three hours later, I was ready to wow my mom during my visit home.

Full disclosure: In spite of all my good intentions, I did not have time to try the recipes out for my mom. I was all over the place and eating tons of Mexican food, so the recipes were untouched that entire trip. 😦

I did find a few of the ingredients near my mom’s house, so there is hope yet for my next visit. It will also give me an opportunity to practice a few times before I get back home.

Japan has plenty of delicious food and I know that I can’t get authentic Japanese dishes at any restaurant in the U.S. This immersive experience is both delicious and educational. The perfect souvenir to gift yourself if you ask me. Itadakimasu!


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