Posted in The Wonders of Japanese Cuisine

Classic Tendon: A Short How-To Guide

Tendon, the technical term for assorted tempura on a bowl of rice. I’ve written about it before, specifically about one particular donburi that had some sort of gravy made with tempura crumbs and dashi stock. However, there are times when I feel the need to stick to basics and only a classic tendon will do. That said, what exactly goes into a tendon?

First, of course, you need a bowl: a good deep one, of course. The sort used for ramen in restaurants comes to mind, but any reasonably deep ceramic or food-safe melamine bowl (think: large, deep cereal bowl) will do.

Then, there’s the rice. Magnificently sticky japonica is classic, but even some good Jasmine or Thai long-grain will work as well. (Here in the Philippines, some rice retailers are flogging what they call Jasponica, a fragrant hybrid long-grained variety that has the aroma of Jasmine and the consistency of japonica when cooked.)

Next comes a critical part of the entire structure: the sauce or tentsuyu. Wikipedia states that:

A general, all-purpose, tentsuyu might consists of three parts dashi, one part mirin, and one part shoyu (Japanese soy sauce). For ingredients with strong odors or flavors, however, sake and sugar might be used instead of mirin, or more or less shoyu might be used.

I do not recommend skipping the tentsuyu; the sweet-salty flavor is integral to the dish. If you can’t make it on your own, check your nearest Japanese grocery or the Oriental foods aisle in your local supermarket.

Finally, you cannot have tendon without – ta-dah! – the tempura. A good mix of flavors and textures is the key to any successful dish and while all types of tempura share the crunchiness that comes from a bath in hot oil, it’s what’s inside the crisp-fried batter that will make all the difference. One of my favorite bowls is the one above from Kitaro: two pieces of okra add a crunch with a gelatinous mouthfeel and a mild, fresh, and green flavor. Two pieces of eggplant add a pleasant bitterness that contrasts with the sweet sauce and I also love how each bite goes creamy in one’s mouth. Seafood-wise, prawn tempura is what most restaurants put in their bowls and it’s the sweet crunchiness that brings people back for more. Others, though, are a bit more adventurous and throw in some whiting (asuhos in Filipino) or squid, but prawns are always par for the course.

Tossing on extras such as nori furikake (a sprinkling of shredded nori mixed with salt and sesame seeds) may seem like gilding the lily, because a well made tendon needs no further embellishments. Indeed, once the bowl has been set before you, all you need to do is break your chopsticks apart, say itadakimasu (“Let’s eat!”), and dig right in.

Mmm…totemo oishii, ne!



Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

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