Tempura in America and tempura in Japan are two very different creatures. In America, you’ll find tempura garnishing bowls of udon, as an appetizer of vegetables or shrimp, and bastardized into popcorn shrimp bites served with a creamy, Sriracha-esque dipping sauce. For the most part, tempura in the US is little more than a soggy afterthought—a fried snack in the middle of an otherwise sushi heavy menu.
In Japan, tempura is the meal. Whole restaurants are dedicated to the beautifully crisp, golden bites, traditionally served omakase style alongside a counter bar so you can watch the master work and eat your tempura the moment it comes out of the sizzling oil.
When planning their menus, designing their kitchens, and choosing their vendors, ethical chefs have to ask themselves: Is it OK to serve bluefin tuna? Do I want to support the local economy by only buying from small, local suppliers? What about using my restaurant concept torehabilitate juvenile delinquents?
But while most of us are familiar with people examining the ethics of controversial foods like foie gras, your stove can be just as problematic. Alternative energy sources in the kitchen are one of the latest and most exciting intersections of technology and food, helping people to combat the use of unclean cooking methods, to go green and conserve gas and electricity, and to provide a much-needed resource to communities in need.
To get a better look at these new technologies and their ability to change the way cook, we caught up with José Andrés, one of the chefs at the forefront of the alternative energy, clean-cooking source movement.