When normal tendon isn’t an option, our recipe for virtual tendon is the next best thing.

Tempura is one of the most versatile styles of Japanese cooking. Pretty much any piece of seafood, vegetable, or meat that you can batter and fry is fair game, and piling a handful of different types on top of a bowl of rice to make the dish called tendon gives you a meal with plenty of different flavors to enjoy.

But you know what one of the very best parts about eating a tempura rice bowl is? The last part, where you’ve got a delicious, messy mix of rice, tempura sauce, and tempura batter drippings. It’s a finish both sweet and savory, and even if you don’t know how to cook at all, there’s a way to make one of these happy endings for yourself, using a recipe we devised ourselves for something we’ve dubbed the “virtual tendon.”

You’ll only need three ingredients, starting with a bottle of tempura sauce (or tare, to use the Japanese term). For our example, we’ll be using a bottle from takeout tempura chain Tenya, but you can substitute whatever brand you can find at the grocery store or an Asian market.

▼ Tempura sauce

Next, you’ll need a package of tempura flakes, or tenkasu. Again, you can find these at Asian markets, where they’re commonly sold as a topping to sprinkle on soba or udon noodles, and they’re ready to eat right out of the bag.

Finally, you’ll need some white rice, and before you say, “Hey, you said no cooking!” we’ll remind everyone that you can use a microwavable rice pack, if you want to skip cooking raw grains in a pot or rice cooker.

OK, let’s get started! First, pop the rice into the microwave for however long its package says (this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes). Take the pack out of the microwave and sprinkle the tempura flakes on top, and then pour on as much sauce as you like.

Now comes the hard part. At this point, the heat from the rice will be amplifying the enticing smell of the sauce and tempura, and you’ll probably want to dig in right away. Resist the temptation, though. Right out of the bag, tenkasu are pretty crunchy, and if you can hold out for 30 seconds or so, the steam rising from the rice will moisten and soften the tempura flakes just enough to help the flavors and textures more fully mix together.

▼ Be still, our beating heart, and be quiet, our growling stomach.

And with that, it’s time to chow down!

Taste test duties for the virtual tendon went to our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko, whose notes say:

“Awesome! This is one of the greatest things ever, and everyone should try it!”

In addition to being super-easy, the virtual tendon is also super-cheap. Our bottle of tempura sauce was just 280 yen (US$2.70) through Tenya’s online store, and you can get a pack of tempura flakes for around 200 yen. So the next time you’re craving tempura, but don’t have the time, ingredients, or skills to fry up the full range of topics, this will get your taste buds to the same satisfying endpoint.

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