History, meaning, definition and recipe of Ten-don

tendon tendon and soba kakiagedon

Tendon has many ingredients and a long history!

Tendon is a Japanese traditional donburi dish which consists a bowl of rice tooped with tempura. Tempura is a dish of deep fried shrimp, fish and vegetables. Tendon's "ten" means tempura, "don" means donburi which is rice bowl. Tendon is an abbreviation for Tenmura-don, but it is popularly called by Tendon. Tenju is used a box instead of donburi, but otherwise it is very similar to Tendon.

Tendon's ingredients are more various than other donburi dishes, Gyudon, Katsudon, Oyakon. In general, Tendon consists main ingredients, side ingredients and coloring ingredients. Main ingredients are deep fried shrimp, squid or sillago(sillaginidae). Especially, Shrimp tempura is very popular in Japan, it is often called Ebi-ten(shrimp-tempura). Side ingredients are deep fried mixture of vegetables, small shrimp, shell and more called Kakiage. Coloring ingredients are deep fried green bean, shishito green pepper, eggplant, pumpkin or lotus root depend on seasons.


In general, Japanese people cook Tempura by frying ingredients in salad oil after coating with wheat flour, stirred egg and water. They put them on top of rice, and pour Tempura sauce(Ten-tsuyu) made from dashi, sake, mirin, sugar and soy sauce. They often use Tempura flour instead of wheat flour to avoid failure.

In addition, they often use Hontsuyu or Mentsuyu sauce sold by Yamaki or Kikkoman to cook it faster or without dashi, soysauce, sake and mirin. It is possible to easily complete the Tendon sauce by diluting these sauce with water. These sauce are sold not only in many grocery stores in Japan but also in Amazon USA. Hontsuyu and Mentsuyu is called Japanese Noodle soup base in Amazon USA.

There are many theories about the origin of Tendon. One of them is that Hashizen in Shimbashi and Sansada in Asakusa stared Tendon in the end of Edo period(1603-1868). Hashizen in Shinbashi closed in 2002, but Sansada is still opening, and is the oldest tempura restaurant of Japan in existence. On the other hand, there is other theory that Nakano in Kanda and Daikokuya in Asakusa starts Tendon in the begining of Meiji period(1868-1912). Nakano in Kanda closed, but Daikokuya is still opening in Asakusa. Its recipe of sauce for Tempura has not changed since it opened from 1887.


In addition, there are many theories about the origin of Tempura. Most popular theory is from Tempero in Portuguese language which means seasoning or spice in English. It is said that Japanese chef who worked in kitchen of Portuguese Christian missionary heard Tempero when he worked.

There were fried dishes made from rice-flour from Nara period(710-794) or Heian period(794-1185), but Nagasaki Tempura which is the primitive form of tempura appeared in the 16th century. Nagasaki Tempura is derived from Nanban-ryori which is Japanese dishes influenced by Portuguese. Especially, people in Nagasaki prefecture were influenced by Portuguese because Nagasaki was the only port for Western countries under the isolationist foreign policy by Japanese government of Edo period. Nagasaki Tempura was more like fritter than currentTempura since it was fried with seasoning flour.

nagasaki tempura

Nagasaki Tempura was introduced to west area of Japan called Kansai, and it became Kamigata Tempura in the 17th century. Kamigata means a region reffering to the city of Kyoto and Osaka. Most Kamigata Tempura is deep fried vegetables, and it is fried in sesame oil or soubean oil instead of lard oil. It was also fried with seasoning flour like Nagasaki Tempura.

Kamigata Tempura was introduced to east area of Japan called Kanto including Edo(Tokyo) in 17th century. Street stalls opened around riverside fish market in Nihonbashi and served deep fried fish and shrimp. It became popular soon, it was called Edomae Tempura. Edomae means Edo style or Tokyo style now.

Edomae Tempura removed seasoning flour because it was stall's dish. Customers eat it and grated radish by seasoning the dipping sauce for Tempura. Edomae Tempura became like current Tempura in the middle of 18th century. In the 19th century, some street stalls(Hashizen or Sansada) put Tempura on rice with pouring Tempura sauce. People at that time called it Tendon, Tendon was born then.


By the way, some restaurants serve a high class Tendon called Jo Tendon. It is added deep-fried big shrimp or conger eel. There are various Tendon except Jo Tendon, Shio Tendon, Kakiagedon, Tentamadon and more. Shio Tendon is seasoned with salt instead of sauce. Kakiagedon has only deep fried mixture of vegetables, small shrimp and shell called Kakiage. Tentamadon is Tempura covered with egg.

There are many Japanese restaurants serving Tendon. Buckwheat noodle(Soba) restaurants, Gyudon and Tendon restaurant chain also serve Tendon. Buckwheat noodle restaurants can serve it because it use dashi for buckwheat noodle. However, their Tendon often has only two deep fried shrimps because it is a dish additional to buckwheat noodle. Tenya is most popular Tendon restaurant chain, it opens their restaurants all over Japan. When you travel Japan, it might to be a good idea to eat Tendon. You can experience Japanese culture through it. If you can not eat it in Japan, you can cook it easily with buying Hontsuyu or Mentsuyu sauce.