It’s interesting how something that seems so simple like tempura — vegetables and seafood that is deep-fried in batter — can either be unsurprisingly cheap or surprisingly expensive. For most people living outside of Japan, the tempura you find in your local Japanese restaurant is probably tasty but on the less expensive side of the spectrum. Even in Japan, you can find tempura in convenience store bento, fast food restaurants, and even made right at home.
So why can tempura get so expensive, perhaps costing hundreds of dollars for dinner? I’m sure one of the reasons is the use of fresh, high-quality ingredients that tend to cost more. Another is that high-end tempura is labor intensive, with each piece deep-fried perfectly and immediately served one at a time, so it doesn’t get cold and soggy from sitting out.