We imagined that this would be either amazingly good or excruciatingly bad, and we were right.
While tempura has become one of the representative foods of Japanese cuisine, its origins are actually Portuguese. Battered and deep-fried morsels of seafood, meat, and vegetables didn’t become part of the Japanese diet until the cooking style was introduced by Portuguese visitors to the country in the 16th century.
With its western roots, one could argue that the idea of clam chowder tempura isn’t so crazy. Except, no, it’s still crazy. Clam chowder is a soup, which usually isn’t something you can deep-fry.
Somehow, though, the chefs at popular tempura fast food chain Tenya found a way. Earlier this month, the company announced it would be adding clam chowder tempura to its menus, and after several nights of fitful sleep in which we were haunted by dreams of the tempting culinary innovation, clam chowder tempura finally went on sale March 23.
Oddly enough, Tenya relegates the clam chowder tempura to third-billing status in its new Bacon Chicken Tempura Bowl, which contains one piece of clam chowder. However, Tenya also allows you to customize the contents of a rice bowl, with each piece of clam chowder tempura costing 150 yen (US$1.30).
▼ Clam chowder tempura!
So we decided to go all in on this edible experiment and put together a bowl with five pieces of clam chowder, which cost us 900 yen in total (a slight increase over the 730 yen of the Bacon Chicken Tempura Bowl).
At first glance, the irregular shapes make the clam chowder look sort of like chunks of deep-fried chicken. But as we picked one up with our chopsticks, we could feel that surrounded by the crispy outer layer of tempura coating is a tantalizing liquid core. As such, you’ll want to pick the clam chowder tempura up gingerly.
We brought a piece to our mouth, took a bite…
…and it was glorious!
Inside the morsel there was rich, creamy soup waiting for us. It danced on our taste buds with the flavorful tempura sauce, forming an incredibly tasty combination. Really, the only downside is that you might rupture the pieces if you squeeze them too hard with your chopsticks, but even then, the soup will just drip onto the rice, giving you yet another way to enjoy your meal.
In the end, we’re immensely proud of ourselves for ordering a bowl topped with nothing but clam chowder tempura, and if you’re looking to try it for yourself, we recommend doing likewise.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where one of his fondest memories of study abroad in Tokyo was when he found the Tenya near his campus.
[ Read in Japanese ]