Japanese fried food basics from a Japanese culture nerd

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  • No, tempura is not the same as furai

As a self-proclaimed Japanese culture nerd, I aways find myself silently judging “Japanese” restaurant menus. Did they use the term right? Are they using the Japanese characters right, or did they just… slap on some random characters to make it look authentic?

I don’t remember any particular boo-boos at this point, but one common misconception I often see is how people mistake tempura for furai and vice versa. 

It may seem like just a smidge of a difference, but there is one. Here are the basics. 


Tempura is probably one of the most popular Japanese cooking methods among Filipinos. I say cooking method instead of dish because actually, tempura refers to more than just shrimp fried in light flour batter. 

There are a lot of other ingredients that can be cooked as tempura, like fish, scallops, mushrooms and vegetables. Mixed vegetable tempura is called kakiage, while the ever popular shrimp tempura is called ebi tempura. (And not to be confused with the Filipino camaron rebosado, which is basically also shrimp deep-fried in batter… but the difference is that to make that, the shrimps have to be marinated in citrus first.)

The key to tempura is the light batter. It’s usually made by mixing flour and egg yolks in cold water.


This is where most people may get confused. The popular ingredient for furai (Japanese for “fry”) is shrimp, or ebi. Yes, like tempura. Ebi furai is made by coating shrimps in flour, dipping it in egg wash, then coating it again wih panko or bread crumbs for that thick and crispy exterior.


Here’s another popular Japanese dish. While all katsu look the same—golden, crispy and deep-fried—the key to identifying this is the form of the meat inside. Katsu comes from the word “cutlet” and usually refers to pork cutlets, but has since been used to cover broader dishes. A personal favorite is the menchi katsu—a deep-fried “cutlet” made by mixing ground beef and pork.

And yes, shrimps can also be made into a katsu—usually, just shape the shrimps into a cutlet or patty.

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