Tenmusu (Shrimp Tempura Rice Balls) on a long Japanese plate.

Tenmusu (Tempura Shrimp Rice Ball)

Course: Breakfast, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: onigiri, rice ball
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 12 Tenmusu
Author: Nami
Deep-fried shrimp tempura inside a rice ball and wrapped with nori, Tenmusu (天むす), a delicious Nagoya specialty food, is super fun to make!


Shrimp Tempura


  1. Gather all the ingredients.  Cook the rice according to the rice cooker’s instructions. I have instructions for both using a rice cooker and cooking rice on the stove.


Shrimp Tempura

  1. Peel off the shell (easy to start from the 3rd segment) and tail of the shrimp. Using a skewer, devein the shrimp. The black vein that runs along the back of the shrimp is an intestinal tract.
  2. Place the shrimp in a bowl and add 1 Tbsp potato/corn starch and a little bit of water. Rub the shrimp with your hands. This is a pretty common trick in Japan, which helps shrimp become more plump and delicious.

  3. Discard the dirty water and rinse the shrimp a couple of times under cold running water. Drain well and pat dry with a paper towel.

  4. Heat 2 cups of oil to 340-350 ºF (170-180 ºC). If you make 12 shrimp, 2 cups of oil are a good amount for deep frying; however, use a smaller pot so that oil is deep enough.

  5. Sift ½ cup (65 g) cake flour and 1 Tbsp (12 g) potato/corn starch with a fine mesh strainer. This will help the tempura batter become light and crispy.

  6. Add ⅓ cup ice water, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar and ½ Tbsp sake to the flour. The vinegar and sake are added to create a crispier batter.

  7. Mix the batter but do not over mix. It’s okay to leave some lumps in the batter and the consistency should be thick like the batter for fritters. If the batter is too thick, add 1 Tbsp. of ice water at a time. Keep the batter cold all the time.

  8. By now the oil should be close to 340-350 ºF (170-180 ºC). You can check the temperature with a thermometer or a chopstick. When you see small bubbles around the chopstick, it’s ready for deep frying.

  9. Coat the shrimp in the batter and deep fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes for medium-sized shrimp. Do not crowd the oil with shrimp.

  10. Transfer the cooked shrimp to a wired rack or a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil. Between batches, remove the leftover crumbs as they will burn and turn the oil darker if left in the pot. Continue deep frying for the rest of the shrimp.

  11. Prepare a bowl with 2 Tbsp mentsuyu (noodle soup base). Dip both sides of shrimp in the mentsuyu and place back on the wire rack.



  1. Transfer the hot cooked rice into a large bowl to cool down. Rice needs to be warm (hot enough that you can touch) when you make rice balls.
  2. Prepare a small bowl of water and a small plate of salt. Wet your hands in water and rub some salt on your hands (this is not just for the taste, but also to preserve the rice balls at room temperature).
  3. Scoop about 1 rice paddle of cooked rice to your hand.
  4. Make a small well in the center of the rice and put one shrimp in the well. I like my shrimp tail facing down, but you can show the tail side up if you like.
  5. Give one quick gentle squeeze to hold everything in one ball, just like how you make a snowball.

  6. Shape the rice ball into a triangle shape. Make a “triangle roof” with your right hand to create 3 corners of the rice ball. Gently press the rice ball with fingers and the heel of your hands. Never squeeze too tight.

  7. Cut each nori sheets into 4 strips. The rough side should be facing up when you put the rice ball on top (the nice shiny side of nori is facing outside).

  8. Wrap both sides of the nori toward the center and bend at the bottom. It looks like the rice ball is wearing a kimono (or v-neck shirt).
  9. Now if you absolutely don’t want to shape your rice balls with your hands, place a plastic wrap over a small bowl, big enough so you can pull out later. Put some rice and sprinkle salt.
  10. Make a well in the center and place the shrimp tempura. Pull the plastic wrap from all sides.
  11. Start shaping the rice ball into a triangle shape, the same way as I described above. Unwrap the plastic wrap and put the nori around.
  12. If you prefer crispy nori and don’t plan on eating right away, you can keep the nori in an airtight bag and wrap around the rice when you’re ready to eat. Enjoy in several hours.

Recipe Notes

Mentsuyu (Noodle Soup Base): If you can't find a bottle of Mentsuyu, you can make it from scratch.  Here's my homemade Mentsuyu recipe.


Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.