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Ah, tenmusu, one of my favorites. Basically, tenmusu is a little piece of tempura (天ぷら) snuggled away in a miniaturized nori-covered rice ball (おむすび). It is most famous in Nagoya, but available all over Japan.

Its popularity could be attributed to the fact that it’s a perfectly-balanced snack, with carbohydrates from the rice, protein from the shrimp, and vegetable goodness from the pickled coltsfoot (きゃらぶき) garnish usually served alongside. The special batter used on the shrimp stays yummy and crisp rather than wet and mushy for long periods of time, and tenmusu are easily eaten in under three bites, as well, making it ideal for those on the go.

More important than convenience, though, is taste, and tenmusu definitely are delicious. There’s just the right proportion of rice to keep the tempura, which is well-seasoned since the tenmusu isn’t served with sauce, from being overpowering, and the kyarabuki pickles are a good palate cleanser.

There is truly nothing not to like about tenmusu. In fact, I think they’re downright charming in their little nori tuxedos… but maybe that’s just me.

天むす

  • Kdipko

    Yum! Where can you find these? I’m always on the lookout for Japanese food I haven’t tried.

  • http://www.koichiben.com koichi

    I think they are becoming more and more popular in the states, though I could be wrong. I’ve seen them more and more now.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Erin

    In the US? You could look for restaurants that specialize in food from Nagoya, though I have seen them in some regular Japanese restaurants. Do you live in either Hawaii or Oregon? I know of some restaurants in both places that serve 天むす. As a last resort, you could always book a flight to Narita and search these out yourself!

  • Kdipko

    Yum! Where can you find these? I’m always on the lookout for Japanese food I haven’t tried.

  • http://www.koichiben.com koichi

    I think they are becoming more and more popular in the states, though I could be wrong. I’ve seen them more and more now.

  • http://www.tofugu.com Erin

    In the US? You could look for restaurants that specialize in food from Nagoya, though I have seen them in some regular Japanese restaurants. Do you live in either Hawaii or Oregon? I know of some restaurants in both places that serve 天むす. As a last resort, you could always book a flight to Narita and search these out yourself!

  • Stacia

    I live in Oregon so I would LOVE to know which resturants serve this little snack. I really want to try it now. :)

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    I’m sure you know where Uwajimaya is, in Beaverton, right? The restaurant connected to Uwajimaya, Hakatamon, has tenmusu on their menu. I don’t think it’s the best I’ve had, but for a general idea of what it’s like, I’d definitely reccomend going there. If you haven’t been to Hakatamon yet, the rest of their food is great, trust me.

  • Stacia

    I live in Oregon so I would LOVE to know which resturants serve this little snack. I really want to try it now. :)

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    I’m sure you know where Uwajimaya is, in Beaverton, right? The restaurant connected to Uwajimaya, Hakatamon, has tenmusu on their menu. I don’t think it’s the best I’ve had, but for a general idea of what it’s like, I’d definitely reccomend going there. If you haven’t been to Hakatamon yet, the rest of their food is great, trust me.

  • Kdipko

    Traveling to Japan would be wonderful, but as I am a student of little means…I better just stick to my local Mitsuwa market! I looked a couple times, but I didn’t see any Tenmusu there. I’m in CA (SF bay area).

  • Nick

    on the subject of food, takoyaki. Had it first time in osaka didnt know what it was or how hot they are. So, coincidentely, i dropped the first one on myself haha!

  • viet

    Oh man.. I LOVE TAKOYAKI

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    So… you want me to do an article on takoyaki? Haha, random, but takoyaki is, unarguably, good eats. Yeah, feel free to send me emails or whatever on what you’d like to see. I’ll usually just write about whatever I I’m eating on any given day, but having to go out and eat what other people want me to eat wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose!

  • Kdipko

    Traveling to Japan would be wonderful, but as I am a student of little means…I better just stick to my local Mitsuwa market! I looked a couple times, but I didn’t see any Tenmusu there. I’m in CA (SF bay area).

  • Nick

    on the subject of food, takoyaki. Had it first time in osaka didnt know what it was or how hot they are. So, coincidentely, i dropped the first one on myself haha!

  • viet

    Oh man.. I LOVE TAKOYAKI

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    So… you want me to do an article on takoyaki? Haha, random, but takoyaki is, unarguably, good eats. Yeah, feel free to send me emails or whatever on what you’d like to see. I’ll usually just write about whatever I I’m eating on any given day, but having to go out and eat what other people want me to eat wouldn’t be so bad, I suppose!

  • Nick

    That would be one of the best jobs ever! basicly like a food critic without the criticising part. As long as the food doesnt taste bad or is way expensive, but i’ll try anything! なっとう though i have to say i didnt like it. Still gonna try it again! You don’t have to do an article on takoyaki for me if u dont want, but it looks as if viet would be keen to see that.

    Shiso leaves are the best edible leaf known to man. Absolutely gorgeous. I wish i could use them when i cook but i cant get them here. My tutor has some seeds tho i think i can get some from her….

    Sorry Erin that was random again but i just had to mention it. And cool fish! b4 i knew that one of u 3 did it i thought thats a well good logo

  • Nick

    That would be one of the best jobs ever! basicly like a food critic without the criticising part. As long as the food doesnt taste bad or is way expensive, but i’ll try anything! なっとう though i have to say i didnt like it. Still gonna try it again! You don’t have to do an article on takoyaki for me if u dont want, but it looks as if viet would be keen to see that.

    Shiso leaves are the best edible leaf known to man. Absolutely gorgeous. I wish i could use them when i cook but i cant get them here. My tutor has some seeds tho i think i can get some from her….

    Sorry Erin that was random again but i just had to mention it. And cool fish! b4 i knew that one of u 3 did it i thought thats a well good logo

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    Thanks about the fish.

    Maybe I’ll let you in on my secret natto tricks sometime…

    And, about Viet. Yeah. He loves the takoyaki.

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    Thanks about the fish.

    Maybe I’ll let you in on my secret natto tricks sometime…

    And, about Viet. Yeah. He loves the takoyaki.

  • http://www.youtube.com/noellafun FuransujinNonochan

    yum おいしそう!

  • http://www.youtube.com/noellafun FuransujinNonochan

    yum おいしそう!

  • Josh

    Does anyone knows how much a flight to tokyou,japan is from houston

  • Josh

    Does anyone knows how much a flight to tokyou,japan is from houston

  • http://www.myspace.com/chriscurameng Kuristeru

    Sugoi.. tenmusu definitely beats the average spam musubi. Maybe I should try making some. In a way, it’s almost the same as musubi, except the spam is replaced with shrimp tempura. I don’t know where I can find きゃらぶき, but maybe I could substitute it for pickled ginger… or not?

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    Hehe, how do you know about spam musubi? Are you from Hawaii? Anyway, tenmusu is a completely a different shape than spam musubi, and the nori is wrapped differently too, haha. But, yeah, rice, nori, protein, it’s basically the same.

    As for substituting pickled ginger… I don’t know about that, hehe. Maybe something saltier? Like Japanese cucumber pickles, etc.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chriscurameng Kuristeru

    Sugoi.. tenmusu definitely beats the average spam musubi. Maybe I should try making some. In a way, it’s almost the same as musubi, except the spam is replaced with shrimp tempura. I don’t know where I can find きゃらぶき, but maybe I could substitute it for pickled ginger… or not?

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    Hehe, how do you know about spam musubi? Are you from Hawaii? Anyway, tenmusu is a completely a different shape than spam musubi, and the nori is wrapped differently too, haha. But, yeah, rice, nori, protein, it’s basically the same.

    As for substituting pickled ginger… I don’t know about that, hehe. Maybe something saltier? Like Japanese cucumber pickles, etc.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chriscurameng Kuristeru

    Yea, I was born in Hawaii. I moved out to So. Cal when I was about 3, but I always went back to visit. Hard to believe I still have my pidgeon accent. But anyways, other than superficial aspects, they are preety much the same, although, I bet tenmusu taste a lot better. Hmmm.. Japanese cucumber pickles, maybe I should be a little daring and go for Wasabi cucumber pickles? (Oh maybe an idea for another article!) haha.

    [off topic] Just by mentioning pickles, I just found it interesting that down south, they marinate their pickles in cheery kool-aid. Some what of a delicacy over there. Described to have sweet and sour taste. I found the article in the NY: Times.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09kool

  • http://www.myspace.com/chriscurameng Kuristeru

    Yea, I was born in Hawaii. I moved out to So. Cal when I was about 3, but I always went back to visit. Hard to believe I still have my pidgeon accent. But anyways, other than superficial aspects, they are preety much the same, although, I bet tenmusu taste a lot better. Hmmm.. Japanese cucumber pickles, maybe I should be a little daring and go for Wasabi cucumber pickles? (Oh maybe an idea for another article!) haha.

    [off topic] Just by mentioning pickles, I just found it interesting that down south, they marinate their pickles in cheery kool-aid. Some what of a delicacy over there. Described to have sweet and sour taste. I found the article in the NY: Times.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/dining/09kool.html?ex=1336363200&en=7a27f1f9c02d4371&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

  • Titianna

    Is there any way you might do an article on okonomiyaki? The little Japanese style pizza things? I’ve always wondered about those. But I’m glad I now know what those little rice balls are called. :D thanks I’ll have to make some sometime.

  • Titianna

    Is there any way you might do an article on okonomiyaki? The little Japanese style pizza things? I’ve always wondered about those. But I’m glad I now know what those little rice balls are called. :D thanks I’ll have to make some sometime.

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    I love okonomiyaki~! It’s not Japanese pizza OR pancakes, though. Kinda my pet peeve when it comes to how okonomiyaki is described. I mean, there’s no noodles in pizza… and no cabbage in pancakes. All they have in common is that they’re flat! Hehe, this isn’t a personal attack on you, btw. I just don’t like how okonomiyaki is sometimes marketed in the US. Anyway, be on the lookout for that article in the next few weeks, yeah? Thanks for your comments!

  • http://tofugu.com Erin

    I love okonomiyaki~! It’s not Japanese pizza OR pancakes, though. Kinda my pet peeve when it comes to how okonomiyaki is described. I mean, there’s no noodles in pizza… and no cabbage in pancakes. All they have in common is that they’re flat! Hehe, this isn’t a personal attack on you, btw. I just don’t like how okonomiyaki is sometimes marketed in the US. Anyway, be on the lookout for that article in the next few weeks, yeah? Thanks for your comments!

  • http://rocmegamanx.deviantart.com Rock Martin

    I would have to live in Indiana, where not very much Japan-wise goes on. :(

    I wish I could taste that Tenmusu…if I can get used to eating the seaweed…

  • http://rocmegamanx.deviantart.com Rock Martin

    I would have to live in Indiana, where not very much Japan-wise goes on. :(

    I wish I could taste that Tenmusu…if I can get used to eating the seaweed…

  • Radien

    Tenmusu looks like a great thing to try out for people who like sushi! (like me) I will look it up next time I go to a qualified Japanese restaurant or Asian grocery store. Good news: I live in Oregon. Bad news: I’m not in Portland.

    Okonomiyaki is very difficult to describe, which is frustrating because it’s something I think many Americans would like. Namely, it’s made with batter, and it has a TON of different tasty ingredients from different food groups, and just as many potential sauces to choose from (I will always say that sauces are the most underrated part of Japanese food; a pleasant surprise during my first trip to Japan).

    Anyway, I think people describe it as “like pancakes” because Americans like stuff made with batter, and “like pizza” because of the variety of ingredients used in it. The similarity isn’t so important as the popularity, when people make these comparisons.

    Dang, this has really made me hungry. Curse the lack of good Japanese food in the Eugene area. I really need to learn to cook more Japanese food on my own. My life does not involve enough rice to suit my tastes.

  • Radien

    Tenmusu looks like a great thing to try out for people who like sushi! (like me) I will look it up next time I go to a qualified Japanese restaurant or Asian grocery store. Good news: I live in Oregon. Bad news: I’m not in Portland.

    Okonomiyaki is very difficult to describe, which is frustrating because it’s something I think many Americans would like. Namely, it’s made with batter, and it has a TON of different tasty ingredients from different food groups, and just as many potential sauces to choose from (I will always say that sauces are the most underrated part of Japanese food; a pleasant surprise during my first trip to Japan).

    Anyway, I think people describe it as “like pancakes” because Americans like stuff made with batter, and “like pizza” because of the variety of ingredients used in it. The similarity isn’t so important as the popularity, when people make these comparisons.

    Dang, this has really made me hungry. Curse the lack of good Japanese food in the Eugene area. I really need to learn to cook more Japanese food on my own. My life does not involve enough rice to suit my tastes.

  • http://shemgar.multiply.com shemgar

    wow…im very excited to taste tenmusu…i havent seen one here in the philippnes although there are plenty of japanese restaurants here in manila…ill be in japan this october ill make sure that i will eat this good stuff.

  • http://shemgar.multiply.com shemgar

    wow…im very excited to taste tenmusu…i havent seen one here in the philippnes although there are plenty of japanese restaurants here in manila…ill be in japan this october ill make sure that i will eat this good stuff.

  • GJB995

    That made me hungry

  • GJB995

    That made me hungry

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  • jericu

    Oooooo!!! Hook it to my veins!!!