Tendon is a bowl of rice topped with tempura. The word “ten” is a abbreviation of the word “tempura.” At first, tendon was called tempura-don, but people started to call it tendon. The origin of tendon comes from Asakusa, near the Senso-ji temple in the 1830’s (Edo period.) It is now a common menu at tempura speciality restaurants and soba (buck wheat noodle) restaurants.
The tempura for tendon is often seasoned with source. The source usually mixes broth, soy source, mirin (rice fermented fluid,) and sugar. There are differences in the source used between the Kanto region (Eastern Japan,) and the Kansai region (Western Japan.)
The source from Kanto is dark color based with soy source and is sweet and sour. The tempura is dipped in the source before it is topped on the rice. The source from Kansai is broth based and is thinner than the source from Kanto. The source is poured on tempura after the tempura is topped.
There are wide range of ingredients for tempera topped on rice. Seafood, such as shrimp, squid, conger eel are popular. Tendon with two shrimps is called “ebi-tendon,” “ebi” meaning shrimp. Vegetables such as sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, and bell pepper are common ingredients too. Tendon with only vegetables is called “shojin tendon,” “shojin” meaning devotion in Buddhist term, because eating meat was prohibited among Buddhist monk.
There is a character called “tendon-man” from the books and television series for kids called “anpan-man.” The creator Tekashi Yanase (1919-2013) was impressed when he ate tendon, and decided to make the character. This tells that tendon is loved among all generations in Japan.