This dish does not exist in Portuguese cooking anymore, but at that time it was a common Lenten meal. During Lent meat is forbidden, so vegetarian dishes are normally served. Over time the batter became lighter and thinner and the seafood and vegetables were either whole or cut into large pieces. The name comes from the Latin phrase ‘ad tempora cuaresma” which means “in the time of Lent” which was adapted and shortened by the locals to ‘tempura”.
As cooking oil became more affordable tempura became a common street food rather than a delicacy reserved for the wealthy. Tempura has now come full circle and is often served on top, or alongside of bowls of rice or noodles. It is a common meal in Japan and in Japanese restaurants around the world.